Time for a Little Soul Cleaning?

Did you ever notice how clutter has a way of sneaking into your house, crouching in corners, hoping you won’t notice (or muster the energy to do anything about it if you do)?

Last week I declared war on clutter. I was doing my best to straighten up when I suddenly felt overwhelmed:  There wasn’t a room in our house where I could enjoy a peaceable sense of order anymore. All I could see was clutter. How had I let this go for so long?!

Saturday morning I lay in bed delaying the inevitable grind ahead of me. As I procrastinated, planning and dreading my day, God gave me this blog post; grace sprinkled over my mess.

Your Heart is My Home

Junk has a way of piling up in your heart just like it does in your home…especially if you’re not vigilant. For awhile you can keep your eyes on the clean spaces. But eventually there is nowhere else to look; that’s when it’s time for a little soul cleaning.

And there’s no better catalyst to such an awakening than having a friend or neighbor over — one you know keeps a beautiful home — to make you see your house through their eyes.

Isaiah had just such an experience when confronted with the clean, pure presence of a holy God in Isaiah 6: “…I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were seraphim…calling to one another:

“Holy, holy, holy is the

Lord Almighty;
the whole earth is full of His glory.”

At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke.

“Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.”

In another example Peter encounters Jesus for the first time after a frustratingly unproductive night of fishing. Jesus instructs Peter to cast his nets one more time, and they immediately fill to the point of breaking.

 When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said,

“Go away from me, Lord;

I am a sinful man!”

Luke 5:8

It’s no coincidence that God exposed the junk in Isaiah’s and Peter’s lives just before sending them out into the world to draw others to Himself.

Rewarding Work

Clean garageThe good news is this:

  1. While soul cleaning can be laborious — especially if you haven’t done it in awhile — God doesn’t ask us to work alone. My daughter helped me clean up our outdoor space. As we worked side by side we remarked on how the work can be almost fun when you’re doing it with someone else. God is happy to come alongside us, we need only to ask.

Create in me a pure heart, O God,
    and renew a steadfast spirit within me.

Psalm 51:10

2. He focuses our energy. Cleaning frenzies can be exhausting. If we try to do too much at once we become discouraged, and when the effort is too great we are reluctant to tackle it the next time. God makes sure that the tasks He gives us do not overwhelm us.

For my yoke is easy

and my burden light.

Matthew 11:30

3. God never shames us for making a mess in the first place; He is happy to remove the junk for us. My last task of the day was to drive my truckload of junk to the dump. When we confront the messes we’ve made in our spiritual lives, Jesus takes the wheel and removes it for us.

As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.

Psalm 103:12

Becoming More Tidy

Cleaning house has a spiritual term, it’s called repentance. Yet repentance comes with its own junk. As modern Christians we prefer to focus on spirituality and growing our relationship with God. But just as weeds choke healthy plants, our junk clutters our ability to experience God fully, and certainly makes us hesitant to invite him into the messy inner sanctums of our hearts.

In his book, “The Secret Life of a Fool,” Andrew Palau (@AndrewPalau) shares his Isaiah 6 moment, when he prayed for the Lord to reveal whatever junk was standing in the way of a closer relationship. God laid open to him his sinfulness in the same devastating, life-changing way that He did for Isaiah.

I modeled that prayer after reading Andrew’s story, not believing I had any blindspots; God likewise opened my eyes. I invite you to consider praying a similar prayer, but first, put on your apron and get out your dustpan, because cleanup will ensue.

Another tool for shining God’s light on the cobwebs of your heart is One Word. This great little book encourages you to prayerfully ask God for one word to guide your year, ideal timing as New Year’s approaches. This process allows God to expose your blindspots while also redirecting your focus. (Read about my first experience with one word here.)

While the labor of this past weekend lingers in my bones, this morning it is accompanied by a lightness and peace that make it all worthwhile. I am pleased that I did the hard work to restore order and simplicity in my life. I look forward to having friends over this holiday without needing to push them past the trouble spots or apologize for my neglect. And I enjoyed rest, a good, deep satisfying rest, when I finished my work.

Come to me all you who are weary and burdened

and I will give you rest.

Matthew 11:28

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