The Corner Cupboard
by Susan Johnstone
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I have a kitchen cupboard which drives my husband crazy. It is an L-shaped cupboard that wraps around the back walls under the laminate bench-top. “Why do you put stuff in here?” Bruce wails, head down and bottom up, as he scrabbles around trying to find items.
This is the ‘corner cupboard’, where I store food that doesn’t fit in the pantry. Things we don’t use on a daily basis such as bread and cake ingredients; also the larger bags of rice, sugar and oats. Sometimes I buy extra on-sale bottles of juice or packets of biscuits and store them in the corner cupboard. Bruce thinks I have a compulsion to store anything I can lay my hands on in that cupboard. I haven’t yet tried a 10kg bag of potatoes!
Bruce is right – it really is a difficult cupboard to get into. We have to squat or kneel and almost duck our heads under the shelf inside to get a good look at what has accumulated in the bottom of the cupboard. Sometimes it’s easy to stow jars or bags in there and forget about them.
This weekend I thought I’d tackle the mounting bags of various flours. I had a plan to organize them into plastic stackable containers with labels. Once I started, that job wasn’t as hard as I thought! But while I was dragging bags out onto the kitchen floor and opening up the view I discovered an old jar of spaghetti sauce. I couldn’t tell whether it was the original sauce from the shop that was in the jar, or whether it had been refilled by a friend with her home-made sauce. It had been in the dark recesses so long, I had forgotten what the jar contained.
Another find was a bag of stone-ground maize meal that I’d bought almost a year ago. I think I made a mistake with the purchase, as I probably should have bought maize flour. What do I do with maize meal? It’s too late to exchange it, and the use-by date is looming fast. This is why the bag remains un-opened. Sometimes it’s easier to stick things in the back of the cupboard and forget about them, rather than deal with it. If only I could hide all my mistakes in a cupboard!
I helped a friend move who had a similar corner cupboard. Her house, on the whole, was the model of a “House and Garden” magazine. Every item inside – furniture, cushions, storage units, fruit bowl, clock, and so on – was more decorative than functional. Her home seemed to be a showpiece of beauty and comfort, and I guess she believed that the appearance of her house was important in portraying herself as an organized, conscientious and financially secure person.
On this occasion I was helping to pack boxes with the remaining smaller items to go in the cars after the furniture had been loaded into the truck. All of the valuable, ‘worthy’ household goods had already been taken care of but I was rounding up what was left behind. As I opened the corner cupboard in her kitchen I was surprised to see a stash of paperwork. Years of letters, bills, school newsletters, overdue payment reminder notes, and receipts were jumbled in disarray in the depths of this corner cupboard. I was shocked to think of the contrast that this pile of papers showed. This was my friend’s “too hard” basket and there the paperwork lay to be forgotten.
We all have some sort of emotional ‘corner cupboard’ in our lives. The place in our heart where we shove painful memories or ingrained bad habits, with the intention of maybe someday dealing with it. …Maybe … or maybe not.
We can make an effort to speak kindly to those at work or church but then lash out with offensive or hurtful words when we lose our temper at home. Maybe we moan about needing to lose weight but don’t want to make an effort to exercise or change our diet. Maybe we talk about the all-encompassing love of God but still have trouble thinking positively towards our neighbour down the road because, well, they’re just weird. Or perhaps we say that we love and forgive Auntie Ethel after a painful comment she made but we still hold that hurt against her and remember it each time we see her.
We often believe that if our outward persona is acceptable, then that compensates for our hidden flaws. But although others may be fooled by our façade, God looks deep into our hearts. (See 1 Samuel 16:7) What is it that makes some things so hard for us to deal with, that we would rather push them away and hide them? Many things in our life can be easy to manage after years of Christian habits. But when something is more of a struggle, we put it in our emotional cupboard. This is the territory where our own ‘good works’ end, and our need for God becomes apparent. If we don’t accept God’s guidance and power to do the hard things in life (practicing forgiveness, self-control, unconditional love), then we end up with a mound of untackled jobs in our cupboard.
We kid ourselves that we will be able to sort it out on our own. One day we will feel more kindly towards that person when the hurt has healed… One day we will be able to resist that extra helping at dinner… One day when we are not so tired/ worn out/ busy/ distracted by other things…. We make lots of excuses and subconsciously hope that the problems will go away. But the good news is – God’s grace gives us the power to deal with it now! We can forgive; we can have self-control; we can be more loving …today.
It’s time to clean out that dark cupboard and really organize those things making all the clutter. Let go of the grudges, let go of the hurt. Let go of yesterday’s failures and move on to new possibilities. Purge the mess. Let God’s light in. Endeavour to make your whole life one of harmony and order. Take heart - for “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13)
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This is both convicting and encouraging. The heart of Jesus is a genuine one, devoid of facade. I'm working on my 'corner cupboard', by His strength.
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Thanks for this. It was a tender message, gently mixed with humour. (That I needed to hear today!)
Don't you love those "best used by date" stamps. :) I enjoyed these glimpses in to the corner cupboards along with your spiritual message. Nice writing!