Letting Go of That “Dirty Shirt”

Recently my son got a new shirt. He wears it as much as we will allow him to wear it. Yesterday morning he woke up with it on and tried to wear it for a second day in a row. My husband told him to go change it. The look on his face said, “But I really want to wear this shirt dad…” He reluctantly went to his room and changed into a different shirt. He threw that shirt in the dirty clothes basket and forgot about it.

That evening I called the kids to put the laundry away. My son immediately spotted his clean shirt and exclaimed, “You washed my shirt mom! Thank you!”

I was like, “Yep, son. I wash clothes every day. All you have to do it put your dirty clothes in the basket, and you will get it back clean.” (Yes, I have to do laundry every day. I have 5 kids. It gets out of hand if I fall behind… but not the point here.)

It amazed me that my son hadn’t realized he gets his clothes back in his drawer every single evening. It amazed me that he wanted to hold onto that dirty shirt when I could easily wash it and return it so quickly that he wouldn’t have even missed it.

But then I stopped to think. How many times have I held onto a “dirty shirt,” instead of allowing my heavenly Father to wash it and return it back in a better condition? How many times have I clung to worldly or sinful ways refusing to give it up to God, let Him cleanse it, and return it back to me NEW? While I am sure there are many recent examples of me clinging to a “dirty shirt,” I’m going back to the beginning.

All my life I wanted to get married and have kids. I also wanted a full-time respectable job. Well, after college I was blessed with a full-time teaching job, and I was engaged to my best-friend from college. After he returned home from an Army deployment, we got married. And within a couple years we had 2 beautiful baby boys. My life -perfect… right? Just the way I had planned it… right?

I was holding onto this perfect life I had imagined while all around me the pieces crumbled. My marriage was falling apart. My job was awesome, but it was really just keeping me busy.  The more I poured into my job, the less I had to deal with the demands of my role as wife and mom. I was holding on so tightly to that “dirty shirt.” I refused to give it to God, so He could clean it for me.

I could see the walls falling in. I slowly agreed to do something about it. But I still held onto my “dirty shirt.” My husband and I received counseling. I learned I had some personal issues to deal with that were affecting our marriage (and my mind) much more than my husband’s military combat. The process of counseling opened my eyes to the fact that things were not as they seemed. I could either live in denial or overcome it. I chose to try to overcome, but I could not do it alone. My husband stood by my side and helped me through the process- though I really did not deserve it. As my mind began to clear, I became more and more willing to let that “dirty shirt” go. I loosened my grip, but I still held on.

Then one-night things got bad. Like really bad. I stormed out of our house and sat on the back hill. I looked up to the sky. I said, “God if you are real, I really need you right now.” In that moment, I felt like I was being held. I can’t fully explain it, but I KNEW He was there, and He was with me. I keep saying, “I feel so alone. I don’t know what to do.” In my heart, I heard over and over again, “Be still.”

I finally handed over my “dirty shirt.” I had been holding onto it for too long. I finally knew what it meant to know God. I had acted like I gave it up time and time again. It was a really good show, but not a real relationship. I knew all about God, I just didn’t know Him personally. I was too busy trying to live my perfect life to even realize that this life is His. His plans are far better than any plan I could have dreamed up on my own. He is the author of life. When I finally allowed myself to be clay instead of trying to be the potter, things started to really come together.

My marriage was completely restored. I found a peace I never knew possible. My mental illness diagnosis was lifted in a matter of months. I was living with a clean shirt again!

God has continued to bless me in ways I never imagined… more children… the ability to stay home … the ability to home-school… peace… love… smiles… tears…heartbreak… and the list goes on.  It’s not all sunshine and roses. It’s life. But life with a clean shirt on. Life surrounded by His peace and His blessings! I never want to go back.

I do from time to time still try to hold onto “dirty clothing.” I still want to do things my way. I still struggle with giving up control. But I am quickly reminded, I am the clay not the potter. I am His masterpiece. Give up that “dirty shirt” and live with a clean one. Live in peace!

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“Whoever tries to keep their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life will preserve it.” Luke 17:33 (NIV)

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