Cognitive Champagne (Thought Bubbles): Junk Drawers


{a domestic vignette from Serendipity}

Sometimes, Kelly walks into my bedroom to talk while I’m working or reading on my bed. She looks around, sighs, and says, “Oh. Your room is so tidy. It’s so calming. Mine is such a mess. I should clean it,” and she walks away. I took a lot of pride in this. I’ve gotten in the ritual of making some effort to straighten up my pillows and clear excess books and debris from my desk before leaving the apartment for the day. I like coming home to a clean room, and when the world outside my room and inside my head is chaotic and unpredictable, it’s comforting to find the same stack of books on my nightstand, the organized corners on the surface of my desk, and my quilt folded at the foot of my bed, waiting for me.

But after a while, when life gets busy, my shoes that were tucked away in my closet like little soldiers in formation get jumbled up and out of line. My books become a mess splayed across my desk; my clothes tumble out of my hamper with sweater arms and pant legs dangling like a sea anemone. Life gets the best of my tidy corners and calm surfaces. When that happens and I don’t have the time or energy to return my own chaos back to order, I employ the patented junk drawer technique. I’ve become a master of closing my closet doors to the piles of wrinkled clothes and jumbled shoes. I shove folded papers from class into the drawers of my desk in case they’re important. My nightstand may stay tidy and serene with the clock blinking calmly in the dark, but inside the drawers is the mess more indicative of the truth.

And I think my life has become a lot like that. I can’t pull it all together. I’ve got raw edges and messy corners and whole planes of me that are falling apart, but I manage to shove away the things I don’t want to consider behind closet doors and inside junk drawers. It’s important for me to see myself as good and clean and tidy, and there are a few too many sins and flaws that I don’t have the time to address. So back in the corners they go. For me as well as for everyone else. Because if I let my mistakes sit in the middle of the room, I run the risk of someone getting too close, and noticing.

So when someone at bible study asks how she can pray for me, I tend to respond that I’m just really tired. That’s a good, tidy, Christian response. I don’t tell anyone that there have been mistakes that seem too old and too scary to let outside my head. But shoving my old knickknacks in a junk drawer doesn’t make them go away. They take up space. They accumulate. They slowly fill up the bottom of my backpack, gathering dust, winking at me from behind my textbooks. My sweaters that used to hang in lovely lines in my closet fall to the ground and are tossed, wadded up, to the side. There is disorder I would rather ignore. But it’s there.

I’m learning this year that keeping things crammed inside is not always safe. Just because God knows me inside and out, that doesn’t mean He doesn’t want me to let Him in. I think it’s quite the opposite. There is this boundless freedom just beyond my grasp. But it takes looking myself in the eye and admitting I can’t do everything alone. I can’t make my heart tidy, kind, or good on my own. While the surfaces may be smooth, life hurts me, scares me, and wears me down. Making things appear all rosy is a way to maintain control, maybe to convince myself everything will be okay. But sometimes I get to the point where I don’t want to rely on me anymore. I need someone to know how much I’m afraid. I want someone holy to look past the painted surfaces of myself and see the scattered puzzle pieces, the dusty shards of glass (the inevitable hairballs. I’m sorry, Serendipity), to love me regardless and to make me right.

Psalm 51:7

“Purify me from my sins, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.”

1 John 1:18-19

“If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. But if we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”


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