You are not a high-paid member of the housekeeping staff in an enormous, private home. Nope.
You reach into the dishwasher and take out a glass. You completely dry it. You open the glassware cabinet. You carefully turn the glass with the monogram facing outward, handling it with the towel, not leaving any fingerprints on it. You set it on the shelf next to it’s siblings inside the cabinet without touching it to the others. You close the cabinet. You reach into the dishwasher for the next glass, and repeat. Drying dishes takes about a half of an hour—and two towels, since they must be perfectly dry.
You know it.
Oh, your fear may not let you admit it, but you know it—you are hurting.
Something deep inside you still reacts, still needs healing, still, still, still festers from long ago. “Getting over it” may be a learned lifestyle for many, but not for you. Actually, you thought you were over it.
I need to tell you, and you need to hear it:
The parts of life you are OCD about are the parts of life where you still hurt.
And I need to tell you why.
If I can make this make sense to you, you can be better. You can be well. You can be free.
So see if you can make sense of it. This matters a lot. It matters to your family. It matters to you. It matters to me.
- There are a lot of germs out there, and folks at church keep bringing their sick kids in. You just cannot afford to be sick so you wash your hands. You wash before you use the restroom and after you use it. Then you wash the lavatory and all the handles of the stalls and the door to the room. Then you wash your hands again.
- Your mother nearly burned the house down with a forgotten candle, once, so you make sure all candles are blown out before you leave the house. You make sure the stove is off, although you never used it today. You unplug all appliances, too, before you head for the car. Then you return, shaking your head, to double check the candles for smoldering wicks. Then you double check the stove and all the appliances, and decide to turn off the AC. Finally you leave, but you almost turn around to repeat the double-checking.
- You are not sure if you are good enough for God because you know you have sins in your life. So you make sure when you go to church, every hair on your head is perfectly arranged. Your clothing is not too short or too long or too red or too thin or too tight or too loose. You make sure of the same for all of your children and for your husband. You sit in a certain order in the car as you proceed to church and you sit in a certain order once you arrive. All seems well. You hope.
Variations to these OCD reactions abound. We cannot control everything, prevent everything, that comes our way. But we want to. Oh, how we want to! So we keep trying.
I know how the the above bad reactions get a hold on us!
I was feeling particularly hurt, one night and I let it get to me. I did not want to cry, so I decided to absorb the woundedness I had experienced and just carry on.
A deep calm came over me. I remember I was putting away clean flatware and cooking utensils. I dried each one slowly and carefully. It would be fair to say I polished them. I organized the drawers where they belonged and set each fork or spoon inside its cousin, perfectly arranged in small stacks and completely tidy.
The orderly look was soothing to my hurt soul. It helped. The order created a relaxation in me that seemed as if all was dependable, all was well. As I “loved on” those pieces of my kitchen, my heartbeat slowed, my shoulders relaxed, and a realization came over me that I was totally sovereign over those small domains and, there, at least, nothing could go wrong.
And I discovered how helpful, calming, and relieving it was to be in control. even if only of the silverware drawer. I analyzed my feelings and easily realized how simply and quickly the OCD pattern had grabbed me and sucked me in. As I continued, I considered how, when I was a teen, if I were to become angry about anything, I could begin feeling a lot better and burn off some angry energy at the same time, by cleaning a closet.
I had very clean closets in my youth. The rest of my life was a mess, but the closets made me feel like at least my closets were better than everyone else’s.
For what that was worth.
Variations to this predicament abound. Sadly, you are not alone. However you can conquer this thing that robs you of joy and of time. There is another way. Trust me!
You can give it all away!
No, I don’t mean your stuff, although if you hoard, in order to feel safe, you might need to. But whatever you do that has made you addicted to certain actions, to get that peace cloud shedding peaceful rain over your head, it is not good if it is not working for you, but against you.
You see, when you choose to absorb the hurt, instead of giving it away, you damage yourself and can force yourself to do some very odd things, like wasting a half-hour to rule over all the silverware. Or wash your hands until the skin is coming off. Or save every single cash register tape from since the beginning of your marriage. Or come back home six times to be sure the stove is still off.
It’s so debilitating and it’s so unnecessary!
Why not just go to Jesus and get Him to take all your hurt away. Then you could afford some freedom in your life.
Because He bought you some.