Putting the Old Self Away
Many a feverish debate has been had over whether the toilet paper roll should dispense over or under; if there is a right way to fold towels and load the dishwasher; and how to pinpoint the preferred coordinates of where to squeeze the toothpaste tube. Are these points of contention trivial? When it comes to toilet paper and toothpaste, I lean toward yes, but it seems public surveys disagree. There’s a lengthy Wikipedia entry on the preferred orientation of how to hang TP, and advice columnist Ann Landers received some 15,000 letters on the subject in the 1980s. The results? In multiple surveys of U.S. consumers conducted between 1989-2010, the average consensus reveals 60 to 70 percent prefer over.
As for towels and dishes, I’ve been known to refold an entire basket of towels and rearrange a fully loaded dishwasher. Plus, when I’m upset, I tend to deep clean. I’m talking the full-bore “nesting instinct” type of cleaning where the junk drawers get dumped and organized, the top of the refrigerator is dusted, and the grout on the bathroom floor gets bleached and scrubbed. In the last several years I’ve concluded that reason for my frenzied cleaning is a sometimes unhealthy need for control.
At times when I’ve been ejected from the metaphorical driver’s seat, crazy cleaning is how I try to reestablish a sense of order. While this may seem harmless and even healthy, an overly indulgent need for control can set us on a wayward path.
In our faith life we’re encouraged to “let go and let God.” “Cast all your worries upon him because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7). If we’re unwilling (or unable) to give control of our lives over to God, we will continue to be bound by the restraints of our past, including guilt and self-loathing, making it nearly impossible to find our true identity in Christ. “You should put away the old self of your former way of life…and put on the new self, created in God’s way in righteousness and holiness of truth” (Ephesians 4:22, 24). It’s important to note that this admonition does not endorse complacency or a complete disregard for self-control. Rather, the Scripture highlights moderation and prudence as wise and useful virtues.
This issue of Liguorian has inspiration for those who find letting go easier said than done. Our articles feature people who placed their trust and control in God and in turn bore witness to amazing outcomes in their own lives as well as in the lives of others. Let go. Read on.