It is time for spring-cleaning. This tradition calls for closets, corners, drawers and even the garage to be emptied of all the treasures we have held back, just knowing we will use them sooner or later. Our treasures represent many things—shopping trips to find just the right shirt, dress, purse or toy. Some are belongings we’ve had for years, maybe gifts from loved ones who wanted to do something nice for us. The clutter includes books not read, hobbies not experienced, exercise equipment that now serves as a clothes rack and countless other things.
TLC, The Learning Channel, has a show called “Hoarding: Buried Alive.” They choose a home that is buried in clutter and attempt to help the residents clear it away. It is fascinating to watch the show and see how full of junk some people’s lives have become. It is also interesting to observe how things that are so useless, outdated, worn out and just plain rubbish have such a grip on the owners. Getting these folks to let go of their junk is like pulling hens’ teeth!
If I have learned anything in life it is that clutter slows and weighs me down. As I sit here looking at my desk, I feel extra sluggish just thinking about tackling the mound of paper, books, sandwiches from a week ago, coffee cups, ad nauseam. Okay, maybe it isn’t that bad; but it “ain’t” good either! Almost every time I need something I have trouble finding it, only to have my assistant see it lying right in front of me on the top of the heap. So today I am going to do a clean sweep. By the time I leave, my desk will be clear, the wastebasket full and my assistant’s desk overflowing—but my mind and life will feel sweet relief.
I’m thinking, too, about this spring-cleaning business in another of life’s arenas. I have a feeling this would be a good time for many of us to clear our internal chaos. Our lives get weighted down with baggage. Our hidden closets can fill up with bitterness, anger, lust, greed and many other things that suck life from us. Our hearts are then unable to feel the appropriate emotions. Our minds cannot think the right thoughts. Our spirits are bottled up, which keeps the Holy Spirit from producing His fruit in us.
For some of us hoarding is a long-term condition. We carry hurts from childhood. Our lives are on hold because we cannot overcome wounds inflicted at an early age. I do not make light of these injuries because they are real. But I do tell you it is time to allow the Great Physician to heal them. That is the only way one can experience freedom and the abundant life.
Others are sinking into a pit created by an open-door policy with sin—alcohol, drugs, pornography, fornication, adultery, gambling and on and on I could go. But for most of us the sin clutter is subtler, less conspicuous. Our closets are overflowing with selfishness, a critical spirit, anger and an unforgiving heart. Perhaps most gripping is bitterness. Bitterness is anger that is allowed to seethe and brew. It is an attitude of the heart that hurts us and those who come into our sphere of relationships.
How do we quit hoarding and clear away the spiritual rubbish? It takes getting alone with God and pouring out our heart in confession. The Scripture says that God is more impressed with a broken and contrite heart than with sacrifice (for us He means worship and spiritual acts of goodness). Many will require help from a trusted, spiritually mature friend, a pastor or a Christian counselor. Just as the psychologists and professional organizers on Buried Alive challenge people and encourage them to give up their junk, so we sometimes need someone to press us and challenge us to take the necessary steps to spiritual cleansing.
Have you noticed that when spring arrives we usually find ourselves covered again in another year’s collection? A spring-cleaning needs to be followed by daily and weekly clean-ups. If we do not take regular steps to remove the clutter and garbage we will face another mountain next spring. The same is true spiritually. It is why the little book of First John assures us that if we confess our sins daily, He will daily cleanse us from all unrighteousness. It is the only way to avoid becoming burdened with the load of junk that hinders our relationships with God and others.
My prayer is that each of us will continuously clear the spiritual debris with the powerful help of the Word, prayer and the Holy Spirit.
Anthony L. Jordan is executive director-treasurer of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma.