Cleaning Out The Clutter

Landfills are the latest casualty of the coronavirus. With everyone trapped at home, spring cleaning has overwhelmed waste services. Officials are pleading with the public to hang on to their junk and “flatten the recycling curve.” Pro golfer Paul Azinger said: “Self-isolating isn’t too bad. I’ve done a lot of work around the house. ... I can clean if I want to.” There is an obvious metaphor here.

It feels good to clean – to wash the car, to straighten up the closet, to reorganize the kitchen, to vacuum – but it is hard work, it isn’t glamorous, and we’d rather be doing something else. But then the dirt gets set in and the clutter piles up until the thought of cleaning becomes an overwhelming burden. We don’t like the mess, but we don’t want to invest the energy to clean it up. “I can clean if I want to.” Doesn’t Azinger’s comment have a spiritual application to many of us? I know it does with me.

We accumulate moral and emotional clutter that takes up space in our minds, mars the beauty of our spirit and burdens us with guilt. Precious hours are frittered away on meaningless activities, leaving little time for prayer and meditation. Some of our relationships are littered with ill-advised words, thoughtless actions and selfish desires, thus spoiling the most meaningful thing in our lives.

Perhaps worst of all is the garbage from the past that we keep in our mental closets. We drag it around with us from place to place, hoping the next house, job, church, set of friends, etc., will make us a new, happier, more confident person.

Even though the Colossians had already “died” with Christ (3:3), Paul urged them to “put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry ... in which you also once walked when you lived in them. But now you must also put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language. ... Do not lie to one another” (3:8).

This exhortation reminds us that we are works in progress, that our relationship with God needs periodic attention and adjustment. The culture is relentless; our weakness is profound; our attention wanders. We must constantly take stock of our moral integrity and reaffirm our spiritual commitment to the Lord.

Maybe it’s time for a spring cleaning. Perhaps we should ask ourselves: “What takes more effort: to live each day with the regret, guilt and shame of spiritual clutter, or to roll up my sleeves and clean up the mess?” I think we all know the answer; it’s just a question of making up our minds. “I can clean if I want to.”