Marriage: Spring Cleaning of the Soul
Spring is the time of year for “spring cleaning”. It is called so because of the urge most have for a new beginning—to deal with the clutter in our homes after a long winter. But what about cleaning up the clutter in our lives? Do you need some spring cleaning of the soul? Maybe…
Consider these traumatic experiences, which leave an imprint on the soul, or “emotional baggage”: A stranger raped her on a summer job at a national park entrance gate. He was nine when he discovered his 19-year-old brother hanging dead in his bedroom after drug-related drama. She raised herself and her brothers as her single mother was either working long hours or partying late. His parents told him he was useless and wished he was never born. Her older brother molested her. Alcoholic parents. Fighting parents. Absent parents. Critical parents. Divorced parents. Sick parents. Cheating parents.
There’s more. What about the choices you made as you matured into your teen years and beyond? For instance, he became hooked on porn at 14 and battles with it today. After huge fights with parents, she ran away with a boy at 17 staying at a flophouse for a few nights. He cheated at school to make it through. She was sexually active at age 15 and has been ever since. He messed with a lot of drugs. She battles with depression and attempted suicide twice. He can’t keep at job. She’s in big debt. She’s binging and purging. He gambles his paycheck away. Drinking problems. Each choice shapes a person’s story – and your story creates you.
How does emotional baggage affect me?
Though your story may not qualify for a TV talk show, your baggage affects you. And face it—we all have some baggage and it impacts us more than we care to admit. I believe the number one problem in most struggling marriages is unresolved baggage that tangles the couple’s freedom to love honestly and selflessly.
We often don’t see how much our experiences shape us. Dysfunction breeds dysfunction. Unhealthy people can’t approximate healthy relationships. Too much of their past is in the way. And the worst kind of baggage is that which is unperceived and unaddressed. To become more aware of what issues you may be blind to, take this self-test: DFR Baggage Self-Check
What is baggage?
Here’s my working definition: “Baggage is the unresolved negative impact touching who we are and how we interact caused by difficult events, tragic experiences or demanding people often from our family of origin and during our formative years. Baggage can also include the poor choices we make as teens and adults prior to our marriages that inhibit healthy relationships in our future.”
Why do we avoid spring-cleaning of the soul?
Maybe you think that you don’t have any baggage. But when you tell your story, do you tell all of it or do you hold back? What are you choosing to leave out? Most think, “Are you kidding? Won’t bringing up your past – sharing things you’re embarrassed about or deeply regret – only sabotage a relationship?”
Unhealthy fears drive most of us to keep silent about our negative history. That’s why people often bury their past. Many downplay their experiences and say they were no big deal. Some claim the events have had no affect on them. Problem. Refusing to face negative past experiences can lead to the common inability to connect past baggage to present behavior. Thus, the term “blind spots” when we don’t see our issues. To become more aware of the affect your baggage may be having on you, take our self-test: DFR Behaviour Self-Check
How to begin spring cleaning?
Bravely face the clutter.
‘Don’t doubt whether your unresolved baggage affects how you live today. It does. And admission is the beginning of healing. Don’t wait any longer to start dealing with it. Commit to finding the freedom to love others freely and fully. Trust what Jesus said: “then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free. If the Son sets you free, you are free indeed.” (John 8:32,36)
Surrender. Let God head the clean-up.
Jesus makes all the difference in the world. There’s hope. Ask Him to help you gain freedom from your past. If you are feeling overwhelmed, remember He knows what you are carrying. Trust Him for strength and perspective. “Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matt. 11:28, 29)
Stop making excuses for the mess.
Look at the negative experiences that may have shaped you. Even where others have caused real hurt to you, it does you no good to blame them. Take responsibility for your attitudes and behavior from this point on. Make it your goal to become who God wants you to be. “No, dear brothers, I am still not all I should be, but I am bringing all my energies to bear on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I strain to reach the end of the race and receive the prize for which God is calling us up to heaven because of what Christ Jesus did for us.” (Phil. 3:13,14)
Start cleaning up your life.
Make amends where needed. Apologize if you have wronged someone. Do your part to rebuild relationships that are broken. Extend forgiveness whether asked to or not. Do what depends on you. “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” (Rom. 12:18)
Fight for full freedom from the clutter.
Be committed to do whatever it takes to get peace with God and restoration with others on the issues you have to face. Ask people you trust to help you connect the dots between your past and your present. Whenever needed go for help to a trusted pastor or counsellor. “Make this your common practice: Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you can live together whole and healed. The prayer of a person living right with God is something powerful to be reckoned with.” (James 5:16)
I’d love to hear how the Lord has helped you through your baggage. What other recovery tips would you like to share? Share them with us at email@example.com or on Facebook @DoingFamilyRight1
**NOTE: If you, a family member or friend is in crisis, seek creditable support right away. Our DFR Care Centrehas a team of counsellors ready to help. We can counsel you in person if you are in the Fraser Valley, or via phone or video conferencing if you live farther away.
To inquire about counselling or book an appointment, please fill out our Counselling Request Form. You can also call our DFR message centre and leave your request at: 604-556-1116 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Images Used with Permission: