My husband and I have a Fourth of July tradition that may be a bit out of the ordinary. It has nothing to do with fireworks or patriotism. It does, however, have to do with freedom. Almost every summer since we’ve moved into our current home, we’ve spent Independence Day cleaning out our storage room.

I want you to know that my storage room is a beautiful thing. It’s 300 square feet of climate-controlled space that connects to our garage. It’s a marvelous space for clothes Alex has outgrown that I want to save for Josh, for holiday decorations, for gift wrapping supplies, and for small kitchen appliances that I don’t need out for everyday use. And it’s also the perfect place for… dare I say it? Junk.

I don’t know how it happens, but every year we are surprised by how much stuff has accumulated. Upon closer inspection, we realize we don’t actually need to keep it all. Of course, deciding what to keep can be a challenge when we have different opinions about the preciousness of a certain item. But we manage to compromise and work through it all. It always takes several hours of cleaning and sorting and then we step back to admire our work. A clean storage room is good for a marriage.

I got to thinking a little deeper about cleaning out as this year’s storage room purging got closer. My heart is a little like our storage room. As time passes, I put away a little resentment in one corner. A box of unforgiveness in another corner. I stack a pile of pride on top. I give the cobwebs and dust balls of shame a chance to settle over all of it. And then I wonder why God seems so far away.

What am I willing to do to clean out the clutter from my own heart? That’s been a question I have been asking myself regularly over the past year. One year ago this week, I sat in a church service in Alpharetta, Georgia and experienced a real wake-up call. It was time to open the door and take a good look around my heart. The path I had cleared left me room to walk, but some deep cleaning would be necessary if I really wanted to live in the freedom and abundance that was offered to me through my relationship with Jesus.

I’m still cleaning. But I am making progress. And like my storage room, it stays clean awhile and then needs attention again. Because stuff piles up. New hurts are experienced. Old hurts resurface. I have to be willing to recognize the mess for what it is. Making a clean-out plan is essential for those of us who desire to grow in our Christian walk. We have to make room for Jesus to reside.

This year, as we celebrate our independence as a nation, I encourage you to also embrace the freedom that is offered to us in Christ Jesus. Take a look in that closet or that junk drawer (we all have one) and decide to be free of the stress it causes when you look inside. And then, if you dare to do it, take a look inside yourself and consider what it would look like… and how your life would be different… if you went to work on that clutter, too. Peace.