The Pain of the Purge
Several years ago, my husband and I helped my mother- and father-in-law move into a new home. Though they were excited about the destination, the journey had been difficult. The home they left was quite a bit larger than the home they moved into. On the bright side, there would no longer be property to keep up, and their new location is in close proximity to family as well as wonderful friends. On the not-so-bright side, there were many, MANY, MANY things that they needed to get rid of in order to make the move.
The difficulty for my father-in-law was the fact that he was a “collector.” Years of buying and selling at the flea market, combined with his skill of fixing almost anything, resulted in two storage sheds filled with outdated appliance manuals, old electronics parts, an abundance of tools, and many things he considered “treasures just waiting for the right buyer.”
The challenge for my mother-in-law was more emotional. Items of both practical and sentimental value had to be passed onto other family members, sold at a yard sale, or donated to a thrift store. Though this place had been their home for less than ten years, there were still fond memories left behind as well.
The loss of all of these things accompanied by the pleasure of settling into a home closer to family and friends made this a very bittersweet move. This was a move they knew they wanted to make . . . knew they had to make . . . but it was painful nonetheless, sometimes to the point of causing distress and tears.
As it turned out, my in-laws needed as much, if not more, help preparing for the move as they did making the move. Realizing they were not strong enough to purge on their own, they planned a time when they would be away from home so they did not see the removal of a large portion of what had been collected over the years. They asked their children to do this because they knew they could trust them to gently discern what should be kept and what needed to go.
In 2 Samuel, Chapter 12, King David had come to a place where his life was cluttered and crowded with things that were keeping him from the life of contentment and peace God had planned for him. He was filled with pride and lust and self-sufficiency that had built so gradually he hadn’t even noticed. So, God sent Nathan to illuminate the problem: David had to move, but he had to unload a lot of “stuff” to make that possible.
David was devastated. He fully understood that he had to purge his life, but he was also quite sure he was incapable of doing it himself. Psalm 51 is David’s heartfelt plea for God to do for him what he couldn’t do for himself:
Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have broken rejoice. Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit. (vs. 7-12)
Though I’m not a “collector,” I’m sure sorting through the 30+ years of accumulation in my home would be a challenge. Like David, I am much more daunted by the purge that needs to take place in my heart on a regular basis, but that is something I can confidently leave in the very capable and gentle hands of God.