Guest Author: Mandy Marzano
I remember watching an interview about a woman who was a compulsive hoarder. I sat there with my mouth gaping open as they showed video footage of this woman in flip-flops walking through the mounds and pounds of junk that carpeted every inch of her home. She pointed to where mold and mildew reigned supreme and even where an animal had chewed away at her walls. This wasn’t just collecting a few knick-knack paddy-whacks or saving her daughter’s macaroni necklaces. This was vile. This was superfluous. This was completely avoidable and had been hidden for years. Her co-workers, friends, and even some family had no idea she wallowed knee-deep in filth daily and called a garbage heap home.
I sat there appalled as her secret was exposed to the world.
Recently, I was thinking about Hoarder Lady and scrunched my face in disgust. That’s when it sucker punched me. I’ve been that Hoarder Lady. I’ve been one of those people who seemed to have it all together on the outside but inside had clutter, junk, and dirt piling up from years past. I turned on the attic light of my own heart and began rooting around, shuffling boxes and ripping them open with my X-ACTO knife memory.
I had a cardboard box with “Middle School” written in bubble letters, and it was filled to the brim with all things crappy. There were old cassette tapes of kids calling me names, poking fun, and constantly reminding me that I didn’t fit in. There were piles of Teen Beat magazines dogeared to remind me of which airbrushed actress I would never look like and which hunky boy would never ask me to prom. I found a trunk with “Dad” inscribed on the latch, and in it found photographs and VHS tapes of drug-induced visits, prison sentences, and weighty words about how my looks weren’t good enough. Digging further back, I rummaged through stacks of postcards, letters and articles, and felt my jaw tense as I read about my failed marriage, parenting mistakes, ministry wounds, and other betrayals written in my handwriting. Page after page, all written in pen so it wouldn’t easily fade or be erased.
I’ve collected experiences, regrets, harsh words, and guilt. I’ve avoided throwing out mistakes and broken shards of my heart. I’ve held tight to the apprehension of my future and the restlessness of my present. I piled all those boxes, stacks and heaps on top of one another, keeping them ‘just in case,’ and was too afraid to let anyone sort through the mounds to help me get rid of what I no longer needed.
Thankfully, I don’t feel like that hoarder anymore. There were no televised interventions or sweet-talking hosts to guide me through the de-cluttering of my inner self. I can only attribute this type of freedom to one word: forgiveness. I’ve learned that the most powerful action I can take in my life is to forgive others and myself.
Forgiveness isn’t an option; it’s a freeing obligation.
“And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.”
Mark 11:25 (ESV)
“For you, O Lord, are good and forgiving, abounding in steadfast love to all who call upon you.” Psalm 86:5 (ESV)
Forgiveness isn’t always easy, and it doesn’t always happen instantaneously. But the outcome is worth the investment. A life no longer cluttered with boxes of bitterness, regret, anger, and disappointment leaves room for light and fresh air to move in and out of freely. It may be that we only have the strength to move one box out at a time, and that’s OK. After all, we didn’t fill up our heart’s attic overnight. But, if you feel weighted, cluttered, or entangled, give it a try. I firmly believe that forgiveness is the cleansing agent of the heart, soul, and mind.