This time last year, my heart looked a lot like my kitchen.
Let me explain.
My kitchen is my favorite place in the house. When my husband and I first did a walk-through of our current home, I cried tears of joy when I set eyes on the kitchen. It had bright white cabinets, acres of counter space, a dishwasher, and eleven drawers. I counted them immediately upon entry. Eleven! Why did this matter? Because up to that point, we had lived in a tiny rental with a kitchen that had two drawers, a miniature oven, and a fridge you could stick up your nose. We also went from a family of three to a family of five the year we moved in. Trust me—we use the heck out of that eleventh drawer.
But over time, my bright and shiny kid-free oasis (did I mention I put a childproof gate on the entryway to the kitchen? best mothering decision ever, after my epidurals) became, well, less bright and shiny. My cleaning attempts during those sleep-deprived early motherhood days were half-hearted at best, nonexistent at worst. Grease and grime began to build up around my stove top. Spoiled food went from stinking up my fridge to stinking up my trashcan, and often stayed there a good day or two until the bag was filled enough to take out. And the floors? Bless. If the dust and hair and crumbs were sticking to the bottoms of my feet enough that I drug the broom out from the closet—and that was a big “if”—then often I would simply sweep them into a pile near the sink, pick up the edge of the rug, and literally sweep my crud under the rug.
Part of me just died admitting that.
And you know what? My heart was in the same condition as my kitchen. Over time, I had let my circumstances fuel excuses for ignoring the sin in my life—and my heart was a mess because of it.
Some were old sins, like my struggle with emotional eating, that I let build up like the grease around the burners on my stove.
You’ve got a screaming newborn and you haven’t slept in 72 hours. You deserve those brownies.
Some were new sins, like my ugly temptation to yell at those I loved most. It would shift, from yelling at my toddlers to yelling at my husband to yelling at God—but like the rotten veggies were still rotten when moved from the fridge to the garbage, the stench of my anger remained.
But you’re doing the best you can. You’re under a lot of stress.
Some of the sin was deep-rooted, like my pride, and lack of self-control—huge, crippling, beneath-the-surface sin that I completely ignored and even denied at times. But by and large it was the “little” sins, the day-to-day stuff that I knew wasn’t honoring to God, but didn’t acknowledge as all that bad on their own.
So what if I spent too much at Target yesterday?
I won’t forgive her until she asks for forgiveness.
I’m too tired to do my quiet time today.
Part of me just died admitting that.
Well, some of you know already what God finally did. Some of you know, because you know me, and you know the transformation that has been going on in my heart over the past few months. Some of you know, because God has had to do it in your own life.
He grabbed that rug, and he SHOOK IT.
And my mess went everywhere.
Over the course of several months, because of His great love for me, He used all kinds of means to expose my filthy heart. Once He used a sister in Christ to bravely call me out on an offense. Sometimes it was a sermon that brought me to tears. Other times, it was the lisped words of one of my kids that struck my heart. He spoke through verses in His Word (which I was finally reading regularly again), sometimes song lyrics, sometimes authors in the books I read would seem to jump from behind the page and convict me on the spot. God used everything from movies to my body breaking down to city skylines to speak His truth to me.
And I was wrecked. Emotionally, spiritually, even physically, I ached with the knowledge that I had acted in such a way for so long. It’s hard to even put into words now the brokenness I felt when I truly looked at the state of my heart for the first time in years.
The best way I know how to describe it godly grief.
“As it is, I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting. For you felt a godly grief, so that you suffered no loss through us. For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.” 2 Corinthians 7:9-10 (ESV)
Considering context, the apostle Paul is writing this in the middle of a letter to the church at Corinth. Paul loves these people. We know he visited them at least three times, and Scripture seems to indicate that he wrote several letters to them, two of them being what we know as the books 1 and 2 Corinthians. They have been through a lot together, and worked through all kinds of growing pains that the early church faced: fighting within the church, sexual immorality, false prophets, and even confusion over the resurrection. So by the time he’s writing this letter, he knows them, their greatest struggles and weaknesses, and they know him. As a result, 2 Corinthians is one of Paul’s most vulnerable letters in the New Testament.
The sin that Paul is inferring in 7:9-10, is their lack of faith in him, their doubt that they could continue to trust and support him. It would seem that someone with a vendetta against Paul had led the Corinthians astray (2 Cor. 2:3-11, 7:4-16). The specifics of what happened aside, the point is clear—they had wronged him, and they realized it. They had profoundly hurt and sinned against their dear friend and brother, and he had called them out on it. Their sin became clear to them and they experienced godly grief: deep, aching regret for their actions.
But they didn’t stop there, with the feelings. So often we stay stuck in our emotions, letting the anger, sadness, or frustration we’re feeling completely engulf and paralyze us. But this is nothing more than worldly grief that, as Paul points out, produces death! Oh, that we would instead be like the Corinthians, who let their grief lead them to repentance. True repentance is not an emotion, but an action. They lay down their pride and confessed their wrongdoing, leading Paul to quickly and joyfully forgive.
For me, this looked like months of intaking the Word, self-reflecting, and having a hard conversation with someone I’d wronged (often that looked like prayer, because it was Him I’d been wronging all along). Intake the Word, self-reflect, confess my sin. Over and over and over again. It wasn’t quick. Nor was it easy. I cried a lot this summer, often on my kitchen rug, also due to my working through postpartum depression for some of it—another story altogether for another time.
Coming out of this season, I have a peace I haven’t known in years. Paul points out that just as godly grief produces repentance, so then that repentance brings us “salvation without regret.” Instead of sitting in the shame of heaping sin upon sin, I am walking in the peace of daily confession and forgiveness. In other words, I am walking in grace. Grace from the Lord, but also grace from everyone else. I’ve been astounded at how quickly others heap forgiveness on us when we risk being vulnerable.
Real talk: nothing is neat or tidy about my heart, my home, my marriage, my motherhood, my friendships and my faith right now. It’s all a mess. It’s all a work in progress. But it’s looking more like forgiveness and grace, and less like control freak and guilt.
Part of me lives admitting that.
About the Author
I am a disciple of Christ, wife to a handsome M.Div. student who loves to preach, and momma to four 5-and-under precious, feisty kiddos who each have their own hashtag on my instagram (#nerdalert). The hubs and I actually met as MKs in Moscow, Russia, and the six years I spent living overseas in Europe and Asia gave me an unquenchable love of traveling, as well as a fierce desire to live my life looking at people through His eyes and loving them with His compassion. In this season of life my days are spent quizzing my husband with Greek flashcards, playing dress-up with my kids as a stay-at-home mom, cooking homemade meals for starving seminary students as dorm mom, and helping lead the MOPS group at my church in Fort Worth, Texas. In between I read a lot of books, take a lot of pictures, and constantly rearrange our furniture.
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