I hate messes. I tell my children every night before they go to bed to straighten up their rooms. Dirty clothes go in the hamper. Shoes go in the closet. Toys go to their designated spots. The kids don’t like it. But, it’s important that they form this habit. We all know that it will benefit them when they are older and on their own. At least we hope so.
But, I have a confession to make. There is a space at the far end of my dining room table that is piled up with miscellaneous items: random school papers, notebooks, receipts, drawings, writing utensils, crafts, etc. Every once in awhile I sort through the piles and throw away useless items and then pat myself on the back. The pile is smaller, and that’s good enough.
But, the table has never been completely clutter-free. I have visited other homes where I’ve seen their dining room tables look spotless with pretty centerpieces and not a stitch of clutter in sight. I often wonder how they keep it that way.
Life can be that way.
Maybe it’s because I’ve settled. I’ve become resigned to the fact that the piles will always be there. Or perhaps it’s because I’m lazy. Why bother dealing with it, right? (Yikes! Did I just write that?!)
I also have a corner on my kitchen counter with a pile of miscellaneous items that I need to deal with. I’ve been “meaning” to deal with it for years now (bowing my head in shame).
I also have scrapbooks, puzzles and paint-by-number kits that are half-finished, and the thought, “I need to finish those” haunts me in the back of my mind.
Our lack of follow-through may seem harmless but, in reality, it speaks volumes about our character and, perhaps, lack of vision.
Ironically, I’ve been mulling over this topic for a couple of weeks and finally just decided to sit down and write. What was holding me back for so long? I suspect because I’d have to own up to my shortcomings and force myself to take steps toward cleaning up the clutter.
Our habits are often a reflection of our inner life.
More important than the clutter on my table or the pile on the kitchen counter are the things in my life that hinder me from running effectively the race God has set out for me. Hebrews 12:1 tells us we should “throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.”
There are many distractions in life that can slow us down on the road to the finish line: unhealthy relationships, harmful habits, striving for wealth or fame, even doing good works can eventually sideline us if it’s not what God has called us to.
Michael Youssef of Leading The Way says, “One of our greatest hindrances is our preoccupation with ourselves. Instead of staying focused on the road that we are running, we begin to compare ourselves to other runners. We begin looking to our sides and behind us, instead of keeping our eyes forward. We need to keep our eyes on Jesus who stands at the finish line waiting for us to complete the race. He should always be the focus of our faith because He is the giver and wellspring of life.”
Other hindrances are our inner struggles, like worry, anger, fear, bitterness and pride. It is difficult to run the race when we are overwhelmed by negative thought patterns that bog us down and distract us.
“…and the sin that so easily entangles us.” We have all struggled with sin patterns in our lives. Even as you are reading this you may be struggling with one that the Holy Spirit has already been nudging you about.
Paul, the Apostle, opens up to us about his struggle with sin in Romans 7. He struggled like the rest of us do, and admitted that the only one who could save him was God, “who delivers me through Jesus Christ, our Lord!”
In Romans 8 we find this hope. Paul states: “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit”.
Now, knowing that we will never face condemnation because we are in Christ, we can say with the Psalmist,
“Search me, God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting”.
Let us humbly return to the foot of the cross and lay our hearts bare before the Lord. “A broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise.” (Psalm 51)
John Piper speaks in depth on Psalm 51 here. I love how he concludes with the concept of “brokenhearted joy”. I think you’ll love it, too.
So let’s take a deep breath and start dealing with that clutter, one pile at a time. Every object has its place. Some are useless and need to be thrown away. Others can be repurposed. Still others may need to find a new home.
One thing is always true when we clean up our messes: we can move about unfettered without stumbling, and experience new joy.
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