My family is nearing the end of a comprehensive cleaning project that has now stretched into its eighth month. This necessary and comprehensive undertaking was brought about by the sudden passing of my father-in-law at the end of 2020.
After months of adjusting to this new reality, the next step for my mother-in-law became apparent. She neither had the desire nor ability to care for a two-story house on a full basement. So, she made the monumental decision to leave her home to move to an apartment in a retirement community. That left the family with the daunting task of cleaning out this huge home that had been gathering relics for 4 decades before putting it on the market.
So, beginning late last spring, the processing of a variety of cast-offs and keepsakes began. In the endless weeks of work, we’ve uncovered outgrown toys, outdated furniture, boxes of financial records (including cancelled checks reaching back to the 1960s), half-completed remodeling ventures, remnants from a defunct business that closed 35 years ago, art supplies, kitchen cast-offs, piles of soda pop memorabilia, partially disassembled appliances, scrap wood, all kinds of tools and hardware (including 43 tape measures).
On top of that, there were building supplies, paints, stains, air ducts, broken antiques, ventilation fans, electrical test equipment, old paneling, plywood, various trash-diving finds, an ecclectic chorus of porcelain figurines and enough glassware to supply a medium-sized hotel. I mean, we found stuff as bizarre and random as a corset from the 1850s and my husband’s wisdom teeth in the back of the kitchen cabinetry! It’s crazy! I’m not kidding when I say that the accumulation of stuff was overwhelming!
In the process, we’ve given away, sold, thrown away and burned so much junk! In fact, the trips to the dump helped us shed literal tons useless garbage. But now, thanks to the concerted effort of the whole family, the house is clean and clear and with the exception of a few random boxes that need to be processed, it’s almost ready for market.
But as we crawled along with this project, digging our way out from under this massive heap of debris, a thought came to me… this house is kind of like a Christian’s soul.
Your spirit is designed to be the storage place of immense spiritual treasure … the knowledge of God Himself. Through faith in the sacrifice of Jesus, an invitation has been extended to you to know the Holy One personally! And through the Scriptures, you can cherish in your mind and heart the very words of the Creator.
If you’re not diligent and careful to guard this sacred space, then your soul easily becomes a warehouse for heaping up and storing piles of worldly junk.
“Do not love the world nor the things in the world If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world.” (1 John 2:15-16)
Most of us wouldn’t readily admit to being in love with the world, but our actions might say differently. The things we store and actively protect on the shelves of our hearts are not without consequence. Over time they occupy space intended for God, smother practical application of truth, and impede the movement of the Spirit.
So just as we did with my mother-in-law’s house, it might be time for most of us to take a radical (and often painful) inventory of our lives and couple it with a renewed commitment to “purify ourselves from everything that contaminates the body and spirit.” (2 Cor. 7:1) so that we can present our bodies to Him as “a living sacrifice, holy, and acceptable to God.” (Romans 12:1)
So, here are 3 tips gathered from our house reclamation project that might help you declutter you soul.
A lot of our time in the basement has been spent identifying items then asking a singular question: …
Should we keep it?
When you are evaluating emotional fragments that are piled up inside your heart, ask yourself the same thing. If you are harboring anger, resentment or hostility toward anyone for anything (regardless of the circumstance), the answer to ‘should you keep it’ is always ‘no.” The quicker you toss these powerful soul clogging attitudes through the door of forgiveness, the freer you will become.
Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. (Ephesians 4:31-32)
Everyone in the family knew that house needed to be cleaned. And I’ve been a party to the many discussions about the importance and value of this task over the decades. But knowing that it needed to be done and even talking about it did nothing to effect change. It’s only when we actually climbed in the attic, dug through the basement, opened the closets and started going through the junk a piece at a time that we started to see real improvement. The same is true for spiritual cleansing. You can know things need to be altered and even agree that change is necessary, but until you decide to act, the soul-clogging disorder will remain.
Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. (James 1:22)
Often the biggest objection to cleaning out a cluttered space is that it’s just easier to leave things as they are. The same objections can be true of trying to keep your spiritual house in order. It is easier to leave things alone, but the irony is that nothing stays “as is.” Deterioration is a relentless process that is in effect all the time. That’s why you need to take regular and honest inventory of where you are. Be alert and inspect diligently to reveal areas that once appeared organized but is, in reality, in need of maintenance. Open yourself up to God’s Spirit and ask Him to show you areas of disorder and danger.
So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don't fall. (1 Corinthians 10:12)
The bottom line is that just like any clean-up project, spiritual orderliness takes discipline, focus, and a lot of plain old hard work – but ultimately, it means developing the virtue of self-control which can only be accomplished by submission of our lives to Jesus Christ and willingness to yield ourselves and allow the Holy Spirit to do His transforming work.