Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Retro Reality Check - Spring Cleaning

We’ve been in our current apartment for more than a year and I have to admit that it looks almost as good as when we moved in. It may not be immaculate all of the time, but it is comfortable and welcoming for visitors, both expected and the ones that are a surprise. Due to a lack of storage space, however, every nook and cranny in my bedroom has some kind of box or shelving shoved into it. And with everything from choir music to photo albums to last year’s summer clothes under my bed, I have succeeded in keeping down the hordes of dust bunnies which can otherwise run rampant.

With the advent of robins and Easter eggs and warmer weather, the specter of spring-cleaning haunts the edges of my mind occasionally, but so far I’ve been able to resist the urge. It’s easy to avoid when there are work and family pressures, social activities, hobbies, and practically anything else to fill in the time. However, the clutter causes a certain amount of discomfort and discontent and I know the day will come when that beast of cleaning will have to be attacked. But for now, denial seems a pretty calm and safe place. And of this safe place, I am Queen; just call me Cleopatra.

Denial is a place I visit at times when I’m also feeling discontented in my spirit. Just like the busyness of my life gives me reason to avoid the more mundane chores, often I let my temporary cares and worries distract me from keeping my spiritual spaces clean and clutter-free. I get bogged down with daily stresses and let some things slide, and soon I’m wondering why I’m not having the peace and joy that I usually experience in my Christian life. That clear communication with the Lord seems off-kilter and filled with static.

Like the dust bunnies that refuse to be exterminated completely under my bed, when I’m feeling lack of joy and without victory in my battles, I can usually locate a thing or two in my life that needs to be cleaned out. This discovery is sometimes immediate, but often comes only after I have been painfully honest with God and myself. It’s true that we usually know very well the areas that need spiritual spring cleaning, but many times we have excused them for so long and grown so used to their presence, that we have just accepted them as part of the furniture. And sometimes it takes the blinding brilliance of God’s searchlight to point out what needs to go.

At one point in Jesus’ ministry, a rich young ruler ran up to Him, wanting to know how to receive eternal life. He told Jesus how he’d been obedient to the letter of the law all of his life. He knew who Jesus was, he knew Jesus had the answers to his questions, and he waited breathlessly for Jesus to respond. Jesus looked at this young man with love, and then proceeded to point out the thing in his life that was standing in the way. He asked the rich gentleman to give away all he had. The young man “turned away sad” for he had many possessions.

Jesus has a way of looking through all of our good intentions and every way in which we consider ourselves to be “good enough”. Then He will gently and lovingly reach out and place His finger on that thing in our lives that is currently keeping us from whole-heartedly serving Him. We can chose at that moment to take whichever fork in the road we want to. We can turn more fully toward the searchlight of Christ and allow Him to stand with us as we obediently get rid of that “thing”, or we can turn away, even “sadly”, pick up that thing once more and walk further away from His perfect path for us.

I was having coffee with a Godly lady who is a close friend of mine, and we were sharing current joys and sorrows at our favourite Tim Hortons. She and I have both been experiencing the same difficult type of situation, one we each entered of our own free will, but something that has impacted both of us spiritually and caused a lot of struggle. I had been waffling with extricating myself from my situation, but had let it just hide out in the corners of my life while I dealt with other more critical issues. A sudden turn of events had caused her to look clearly at her situation, and the decision could no longer be avoided.

As my friend began to talk about what had been happening in her world, she radiated more peace and acceptance than I had seen in her for a while. She had come to a place where the Lord put His finger on that thing in her life, and she knew with absolute clarity the choice she had to make. She risked losing everything He had blessed her with if she chose to hold on to that one thing she thought she wanted. She decided to be obedient, to let go, and walk away from that thing toward His righteousness. And with that decision, she has found peace and joy.

I have learned a few things about that which clutters my life. I used to think that people who allowed garbage to infest their spiritual lives did so because they were too accepting of the world’s standards, too weak to resist temptation, or perhaps just didn’t love the Lord that much. What I’ve learned with dealing with that “thing” in my life, is that it starts insidiously. Like the dust bunny that doesn’t just roll in to a corner from out of nowhere, the stuff that becomes strong enough to steal your first love for the Lord starts with little motes that seem harmless and are allowed to settle and accumulate.

It may be a greater acceptance of that which you used to abhor. It may come from filling your mind with messages that seem harmless but are secular enough to wear down your faith. Small decisions that seem meaningless may lead to a place where you are suddenly in the middle of something you had no business being anywhere near. And there is enough in that something that makes you enjoy it and want to stay. You know you shouldn’t be there, you know you shouldn’t even want to be there; yet you are and you do, so you convince yourself that you are powerless to change your situation. But to remain there causes the spirit to war against the flesh, and in your miserable state you cry out to the Lord for help.

At this point He offers you a choice. It is up to you to choose between letting go and turning away from that thing, or staying in your disobedience and drawing further from Him. The truth is that we always have an option, regardless of how difficult it may be to choose. I’ve been in this situation at times and asked the Lord for strength to make that choice. In a sense, that is passing the buck. We always have the ability to choose. We just need to do it. To decide once and for all, that this “thing” in life has to go. And then do it.

I won’t sit here and tell you that I have made all the right choices, that there aren’t any dust bunnies in my spiritual life at this point in time. Like everyone else, the Lord deals with me one step at a time, for that is what He has already given me the strength to handle. But I do know that I can’t wait for one season a year to clear out the clutter. Avoidance doesn’t cut it either; even Cleopatra wasn’t happy at The Nile.

Whatever that thing currently is in your life, whether it is a desire for something more than the Lord, or perhaps a relationship, a habit, or unhealthy choices, you are not helpless and entrapped. When the Lord asks you to do something He gives you the resources to do it. And that includes picking up that thing and throwing it as far from you as you possibly can.

This spring, consider cleaning up not only your home but also your heart. Vacuum up those dust bunnies and make room for the blessings He wants to fill your life with. And let that spring sunshine of His love bring you the warmth, peace and joy you desperately crave.

Reality Check is written by Lorraine Walker and published on http://www.sgmradio.com
Spring Cleaning was first published by SGM Radio in April 2006

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