Monday, January 5, 2015

Hoarding and the Inmate

"There's so much to clean out of this house. Truckloads!" Shelby moaned. "I'm not exaggerating. How can we move? How will we ever get past the piles of...stuff?"

Hoarders. We see them on the television and our eyes widen. How do they live like that? How can they not see their clutter is holding them back from a well lived life?

I have a neighbor who cleans out her garage about once a month. She says she is determined to live a better life. She pulls everything out of her garage, rearranges it, then returns nearly all of it to the garage. If something doesn't fit her new arrangement, she piles it by her front door or has a garage sale. Most of it slowly returns to the garage until the next time.

In prison you don't have a lot of stuff. There may be a few possessions you have collected during your stay, but, your job income of 75 cents an hour in the prison only allows for  necessities.

Hoarding is still a problem. Even in the prison. Not the hoarding of physical stuff, but the hoarding of sins.

Inmates do not have the luxury of ignoring their sins. They are offenders and their sins must be punished. A prisoner who longs for a better life must not only do the time, but redeem the time. Change that results from sorting through the clutter of sin is their only hope.

Many of us are in prisons of our own making. We make an effort to get rid of sins, to clean out the garage of the heart. But sin clutter mostly gets moved around, hidden behind walls or disguised with pretty words.  If we can laugh about the sin, we lessen its importance. In the end, like my neighbor in her garage ,most sins receive a little more time to continue cluttering our lives.

It's easier to consider sin by the truckload. "I'm just out of shape" is somehow acceptable clutter so that we don't have to exercise or take good care of the body, God's dwelling place. Hiding anger, pride or laziness behind words like "I'm just tired" or "All moms yell sometimes" somehow makes it easier to walk past the sins rather than removing them.

Some hoarders recognize the problem, but, like my neighbor, merely rearrange their possessions. The possessions look valuable, helpful. It makes them feel prepared for a future day.

Pride can seem valuable. Greed can seem helpful. Selfishness can make us feel prepared for a future day. The rich young ruler walked away sad because he had many possessions. His "stuff" kept him from living by faith not sight. He had much but did not live well because his choices kept him from giving God first place in his heart.

Less of me and my stuff opens up room for more of Him.

"Just tell me what to do and where to start," a young prisoner said to me. She has seven children and one on the way. She's a new Christian and ready to rid herself of piles of sin clutter. We start the same way I unload my own truckload of junk. One sin at a time.

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