by The Revd Jacob Legarda | Archbishop’s Chaplain | Chaplaincy Co-ordinator
Like myself, some of you may know and watch the reality TV show called ‘Hoarders’. For those who haven’t seen it before – the show is about a team of professionals who, each week, attempt to help a self-confessed hoarder regain control of their home and possessions through an intervention-style clean-up and make-over.
The hoarders who feature on the show are often non-selective and indiscriminate about what they collect – they hoard almost anything they can get their hands on, be it dated magazines and newspapers, expired groceries, stray animals, broken furniture and appliances, old clothing and toys, or random memorabilia.
Many of the hoarders don’t even realise how they amassed the mountains of junk and garbage which now fill their homes and make life dysfunctional. The slow and complex process of culling and cleaning often reveals just how much the hoarding has both diminished and taken over their lives. There is usually little room for them, their family or their guests. While many of the hoarders recognise that they have a problem, they still experience severe anxiety when their possessions are taken away.
In many ways, hoarding resembles what sin is like when it goes unchecked. You see, sin never gets rid of itself – it sinks in and hangs around (in one form or another) unless it is intentionally discarded through repentance. Sin’s hold on us is a result of us being indifferent and indiscriminate about the things which we allow to make a home in our thoughts and in our hearts. The more space we fill with the junk and distractions of this world, the less room we have for God in our lives.
Like what hoarding is to a hoarder, sin makes us blind to our sinfulness. Compulsive hoarders may be aware of their irrational behaviour, but the emotional attachment to the hoarded objects far exceeds the motive to discard the items. Similarly, we may know that things like anger, pride, resentment, falsehood, and vice are wrong, but our attachment to our temper, our ego, our grudges, our lies, and our addictions may far exceed our desire to let go of them.
This is why we need Lent. Each year, the season of Lent offers us the opportunity to discard the junk, the baggage, and the residue which sin leaves behind – to make room for the forgiveness, the grace, the joy and the renewal which Good Friday and Easter bring. Lent reminds us that we cannot be indifferent about what we allow to make a home in our hearts and in our lives, since God himself is not indifferent about the right or wrong of what we do, think or say.
Our Lenten ‘make-over’ is accomplished through prayer, charity and fasting. These disciplines (and they’re called ‘disciplines’ because we need to persist with them) represent the three areas of our lives which call for special attention. Prayer points to our relationship with God, which is nurtured by worship and scripture. Charity represent our relationship with others, which is strengthened by our loving service and concern. And Fasting represents the self-control and self-mastery we ought to have over our inner desires and often conflicting impulses, which (if un-disciplined) could easily lead us astray.
As we begin our Lenten journey, let us ask God to reveal to us the true state and condition of our hearts, our minds and our lives, so that recognising what needs to reordered, fixed or dispatched, we may be more open and willing to be transformed by God’s grace.