One of my least favorite tasks is sorting, yet by some form of a miracle, I have dedicated the past several days to just that. You’d think after this manner of torture, I would be uncharacteristically difficult to be around, but I’m delighted to report quite the opposite is true.
Approximately three years ago, I stumbled on Marie Kondo’s book, The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up, and shortly after, Joshua Becker’s book, The More of Less. I began minimizing my wardrobe and removed three-quarters of my clothing. I took each piece off the hanger, held it or tried it on, and kept only those articles that ‘sparked joy’.
Next, I set to work on my bookshelf. It was packed full, dusty with books I’d inherited, a few of my personal favorites, and some textbooks from our university days. I took every single book off the shelf and saved only the ones I adored. I have since done this two more times and recently transferred some keepers to my new ‘studio’ space (formerly the homeschool room) now dedicated to writing and painting. That same bookshelf, located in the piano room, now looks like this…
Back to my sorting frenzy over the past few days. I’ve been decluttering our attic, which is also our bedroom. Since our Victorian home was built during an era where closets weren’t necessary, between our barely existent storage arrangement, my aforementioned sorting aversion, and my severe lack of time during the years we homeschooled, instead of a retreat, the attic became a catch-all space. But these past few days have drastically altered its condition, and my joy has been re-sparked.
Besides my home, there is another place I need to make a concerted effort to keep tidy—my spiritual life. Not unlike my bookshelves, closets, or the attic, I need to avoid allowing things to pile up or stuffing things into dimly lit corners. When I fail to attend to my spiritual life and take the time to sort through the stuff that is cluttering up my thought life, things get messy.
Prior to the attic overhaul, every time I surveyed the mess, I felt overwhelmed. Similarly, in our thought lives, there are times when the clean up seems too great—far too messy to even begin. We recognize we are stuck but can’t see a way to fix it. We fear an even greater mess if we begin dragging stuff out into the light, so we carry on stuffing things, closing doors, and ignoring the clutter.
Eventually the undealt with junk catches up with us and things get ugly. Unforgiveness compiles and bitterness builds. Fear collects and anxiety limits our movements. Self-righteous pride leaves ugly deposits. Jealousy and envy bury joy. Control consumes freedom. Sin overshadows any remaining beauty. Just like the attic, the unattended clutter in our thought life produces a spiritual mess with a clean up that seems too great to attempt.
Jesus died for all the junk to proffer beauty. He’ll sit with us in the mess until we’re ready to tackle the process. He’s the only one who can make us clean.
In order to clean up, I need to first recognize the mess then ask for God’s forgiveness in creating it. I bring each article to Jesus and release it to be whisked away by his love and forgiveness. Once rid of the junk, I find I am lighter, more joyful. I return to him often to throw away any other messy deposits.
Clearing out spiritual clutter is not a one-time event but a lifetime process. For maintenance, I need to set aside time each day to clean up my thought life and renew my mind. I do this by reading God’s word, the Bible, and allowing it to teach me his truth on how to live while being reminded of what he thinks of me. I seek to dwell in his presence in prayer, repentance, meditation, and worship, and live out his goodness, mercy, forgiveness, and truth during my daily interactions with others.
My spiritual house may never be perfectly clean, but with daily effort, I can keep the clutter under control, and, with additional focus, I can make a healthy dent decluttering built-up messes. Either way, I trust that God is beside me in the cleanup effort, which is both beautiful and reassuring. In time, the more junk I throw off, the more closely I’ll resemble Jesus. Won’t you join me in a spiritual spring clean?
Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. ~Romans 12:2