When my daughters were young, I trusted them to clean their room. I never set aside a certain time of day or demanded they clear the clutter at the expense of missing an activity. I knew some mothers who put their kids in lockdown if they were not keeping their spaces neat. Being ‘grounded’ seemed like punishment for me, so I subjected no one to it. After all, the area I lived in as a child and a teen often required I blaze a trail to get to my bed at night.
This could go on for months, and then, a spirit of irritation would hit, and I couldn’t stand to look at the clutter. When I had time off from school or work when my brain wasn’t preoccupied with study or an unforgiving schedule, I would suddenly have to toss everything. Otherwise, I could flop down in the middle of it and not see it.
Once in a while, my mom would open the door, gasp, and with wide eyes say,
“Chris, you need to clean your room.”
“Why?” I would look at her over a pile of clothes I had worn for about two seconds spread out over weeks. They weren’t filthy dirty, and it was at least ten steps to the washing machine from my bedroom. Why waste my energy on that?
“It’s a mess in here.”
No matter how much I had to kick objects out of my way or go around obstacles, as long as I could leap into my bed, it was easy to ignore. It would improve my skill when I had to clear the high jump in gym. The one thing I never dared do was to eat in my room. I knew better than that, or her wrath would be immediate. She knew where every utensil was in each drawer.
She never demanded that I buckle down and do anything about it. There was the suggestion with a sigh that it was awful and I might want to take some action.
I used the same philosophy with my two. When it got bad enough, they would eventually take care of it. It was strikingly obvious when we would be on vacation, and the two of them would share a room. My oldest daughter would make her bed, put her clothes in the dresser, and make herself a beautiful home like Martha Stewart. The other got out of bed and never looked back until we checked out at the end of the week.
Based on this, it was easy to discern who was not pulling her share of straightening up and needed a little assistance. Occasionally, I would enter the room and check the environment for overlooked hazards. Like when a child stockpiles collectibles in their pockets or a shakedown in a prison cell, it was anyone’s guess what would show up.
During one of these routine inspections, I opened the door and heard sloshing. A souvenir water bottle was hung on the doorknob and swung back and forth.
A memory surfaced of her sucking up a high sugar, sticky liquid on a hot summer day. I mentally calculated when we had been to that amusement park. It was at least a year, so it wasn’t looking good for me to twist off the cap. I took my chances because I couldn’t leave it there until we relocated.
The smell was horrifying. Seeing the fuzzy black mold growth raised more than one gag. If it were a homeschool science project, she would have been awarded an A. I learned what time, darkness, and saliva do together when unattended. I am sure there is an unknown algebraic equation that would fit this situation.
I had to precariously transport it from one end of the house to the other where I could dispose of it in the kitchen. That was the longest walk, trying not to trip and spill any of it on me or the carpet. I imagined one drop being like the sulphuric acid I had to handle in chemistry class in high school. We had gloved up, but I had not yet secured my safety goggles.
The teacher had just said,
“Don’t let any of this touch your skin. You will suffer burns.”
Moments later, my lab partner accidentally splashed it in my eyes. My entire face went under the faucet, and everything was okay except for her nerves.
My daughter saw me, and as I rushed without rushing, I asked,
“Why was this in your room?”
“I hung it there when we got home. I forgot about it.”
I dumped the contents and the memento that had cost triple its production.
Why do we easily remember some things but suddenly forget others? Usually, if it’s an unpleasant task, we can let it vanish without care. You would think something like personal hygiene generally holds a high priority in memory.
This is not always the case.
I was on my way to a family member’s house, trying to concentrate on the food I was to bring. I had made multiple trips from the kitchen to the car, securing a hot crockpot and other containers. Positioning is a priority in case of a sharp turn, and your goal is to not see the contents all over the back seat.
Nothing is worse than getting to your destination and realizing that you left an item behind, and then you have to drive all the way back to retrieve it. My mind was on nothing but loading the car and arriving on time.
The three of us got in and buckled up. It started with my oldest daughter seated in the back.
“I forgot to put deodorant on!”
My first thought was,
Oh, no. I have to turn the car off because my house key is on the ring and there is no other way to get in.
I felt shuffling and heard a slight sniff in the passenger seat beside my right arm. The announcement had triggered her sister to double check herself.
“I forgot to put mine on, too!”
My armpits suddenly felt sweaty. No way. I had to admit it.
“I forgot to put mine on too.”
Now it was worth turning off the car, so we could run into the house to quickly swipe some on.
I have always appreciated those moments when suddenly, a quiet voice in my mind reminds me of something I am about to forget at the door when I leave. Or, at the store, just before I check out, while in line, and have to run up and down aisles trying to get back before the cashier is to the final item on the belt.
The help is always there, but I can get distracted and forget. I fall easily into striving, trying to do it all myself, and disregard the inside communication that could save time.
All the experts say to make a list before shopping and go after a meal. I generally adhere to both pieces of advice by eating beforehand and writing down what I need. I either forget my list on the kitchen table or lose it, especially if I have to go to more than one store.
I have been reminded lately to start my day in prayer. Not scrolling through my phone looking at what draws the world’s attention, but making a connection right away when I wake up. Calling in the direction of heaven seems to improve my day. Some would say this is a psychological phenomenon, but what if it isn’t? What if God wants that, and until we do it, there will be a struggle when one isn’t necessary?
If someone told me to bet on a horse they knew would win because it had won before, the odds would be in my favor, and placing my money on it would bring me a reward. What if it worked? If that is the outcome, lying down a couple of dollars would result in a small win. The risk would be worth it.
It’s the same with asking for help right from your bed before the day begins. What can it hurt?
In Psalm 143:8 it says,
“Let me hear in the morning of your steadfast love, for in you I trust. Make me know the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul.” (ESV)
Before your phone buzzes or you have to make a life-changing decision, God will speak to you so when the moment arrives, you may already have an answer.
Just as powerful as remembering, so is forgetting. In the movie Inside Out, sadness and joy realize they cannot exist without each other. How can someone suddenly laugh in the middle of sobbing their eyes out? Because one overrides the other.
While it is a great thing for us to recall certain events, it is also a gift to forget circumstances that hurt us to the core of who we are. The chalkboard of the mind can be erased as if the pain never existed. That’s another fantastic tool that God employs to help us move forward.
Isaiah 43:18 says,
“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.”
I have a lot of places in my life where I have been physically, mentally, and spiritually hurt, and several years went by where I stuffed down my feelings. Without realizing it, there was darkness residing inside that I was unaware of, but it was running my thinking and influencing what was manifesting itself around me. Before waking up to the truth, I couldn’t comprehend why a loving God would allow so many distressing patterns that kept repeating themselves.
I had to bravely take the cap off the container I had housed for years, hanging on the door of my heart, collecting sludge.
With God’s help, I became an observer, able to stand outside the emotions, separate myself and be free. I didn’t have to force myself not to think of the past; I finally looked at it for what it was, saw the errors made, and let it go.
As explained in the verse, I can now bury the past and look at it no more. It has lost its energetic hold on me so I can walk free of it. Dropping unnecessary, dense energy creates space for new, better experiences.
One of the most helpful things I have done is to imagine making peace with the people who caused me to suffer harm, and I see how in some places, not all, I allowed it. Through supernatural help, I can visualize myself being in the presence of some of my worst enemies, forgiving them, and creating peace.
You don’t want to walk through your life dragging the heavy weight of burdens along because they will rob you of your peace and joy. The negative emotions will repel your good.
Just like showing up at a social gathering without your deodorant.