Cleaning Out Your Closet

By Bindu Adai Mathew

Spring is here! Well, let’s be honest, here in Florida, our “winter” is actually the equivalent of Spring up north. Growing up, I always loved spring… warm but cool weather, the trees have leaves again, there are fresh, colorful flowers everywhere. I‘ve always adored the Spring season because it makes me feel alive again. My mom also loved Spring, and like mothers everywhere, she always liked to use that time to clear out our closets and do some deep house-cleaning.

For me, cleaning out my closet and getting rid of toys and clothes was the equivalent of forcing me to eat liver and spinach for dinner. It was the equivalent of no cartoons on a Saturday morning or no swimming pool in the summer. It was neither palatable nor fair. So what if I didn’t play with that toy anymore or that I no longer wore that dress?? It was MY dress… it was MY toy. And I still liked both, and I was not ready to part with either.

Then high school hit, and I not only hoarded my clothes and toys, but I began to save my schoolwork. I began to worry that I might forget how to do a quadratic equation in college, so what if I still needed my notes and homework to figure it out? (In my defense, there was no Google or Internet back then.)

My mom fought a yearly battle with me, encouraging me to clean out my closet and get rid of unneeded things. “But that was my first Trapper Keeper! I have to keep it!” or “I know parachute pants will come back in style. Why do I have to give them away?!”

As I got older, my mom eventually left me and my closet alone. Over the years, my closet grew… and grew… to the point that any time I moved, it was not only painful and overwhelming but truly a nightmare. And after my last move, I realized that my mom had been right all along. However, it’s still not been an easy task to clean out my closet.  I’m very sentimental and I take very good care of my things, so it’s very easy to continue to hold on to everything.  But now I’m in a home where closet space is limited, and I realize that if I do want to make room for new things, I do have to let other things go…

This year particularly I realized it’s not only clothes, shoes, and paperwork that I often hoard. I also hoard unresolved feelings like unforgiveness… resentment… bitterness. I hold onto those hurts and pull them out to look at them, think about them. It’s almost like pouring salt on an old wound. But rather than letting them go, I put that hurt right back in my closet, storing those feelings away until the next time I’m feeling vulnerable or hurt and decide it’s time to think about them.

Just like an overrun closet filled with unneeded things can limit our ability to have room for new things, so can a overrun heart that is filled with hurt and unforgiveness. It’s not only limiting but debilitating. It not only limits your own potential in life, but just as importantly, it limits God. While nothing is impossible with God, He works best in us when are hearts are clean and pure. And more than our current circumstances that we’re focused on, he’s more focused on our hearts, and he often uses our circumstances to transform our hearts.

In my new year posting, I mentioned that it is time. And I truly believe that. This is the time. Today. This year. It is time to let go. Time to let go of the hurt, the disappointment. Time to forgive your friend/mother/spouse/child. It is time to forgive yourself. As the Bible eloquently stated, you cannot put new wine into old wineskins. To make room for the new, you have to let go of the old.

As I think of the promise of spring and the concept of letting go of the old and embracing the new, I’m reminded of the closing chapter of my novel, The Chrysalis:

Like the rings of a tree, each of these events marks a significant year in my life. And now another year has come and gone. And soon enough, this moment, too, would be a distant memory. I could suddenly feel time ticking again. It is as palpable as my heartbeat. I can feel the grainy sands of time slipping through my fingers. As much as I want to curl my palm into a fist, it is inevitably slipping through my fingers. I have only one choice, I realize. To embrace it. To embrace this life—my life. Because Life is happening—with or without me. There was already so much wasted time spent on wishing, wanting, waiting… when life was all around me, ready to be experienced and enjoyed.

Our lives are like this forest. Seasons of beginnings and endings, marking both life and beauty as well as desolation and emptiness, all leading us to where we are, where we are meant to be.

I dig my hands deeper into my pockets in a futile attempt for warmth and march on, eager to explore parts of the forest that I had never seen. It seems to go on for miles, but how far had I ever gotten? Something had always stopped me from exploring—busyness, laziness, fear. I always said that I wanted to explore, but somehow I never had the time. But now the trail lies before me, a seemingly never-ending road of possibility stretches before me, winding and twisting, leading me, and now Life has simultaneously presented me all the time, the interest, and opportunity. As I walk, some markers are initially familiar, but soon enough, I am on unfamiliar ground.

I haven’t even gotten farther than a mile when I come upon it—there amongst the brittle, dead, seemingly barren branches—one little leafling pushing through the lifeless tree bark. A bud. Alone in its dark green, fragile glory, it dares to breach its tiny blade through. It is a reminder that yes, change is on its way and what was once barren would bear life once again. One small bud. Of Hope. Of Life. I smile at the reminder.

With outstretched arms, I lift my head to the waning sun and twirl around slowly and then faster, faster—for after the winter, the spring surely comes, and with it, I, too, am reborn.

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