Clearing out our clutter



As I step into the room and turn on the light, I grimace at the exercise-turned-catch-all room. A treadmill and elliptical sit in the center, and boxes and bags overflowing with random snippets of life line the walls: posters of my world travels that once filled my classroom; commemorative shirts from my high school track and cross country meets; the baptismal gown my daughter and I both wore as infants.

Whenever I clean out another room in the house, I bring all of the extra items here. Items that need to be organized, donated or discarded. However, I’ve developed an emotional attachment to many of them, and I don’t want to waste something that may be useful one day. So I add boxes to the pile, and everything stays where I put it.

I didn’t see the problem until the day I began strategically stacking the existing boxes to make room for new boxes. The mess was so big, I had no idea how to sort through it. I was overwhelmed.

Sin has the same effect on our hearts. The longer we stray toward it, the more entrenched we become in it. We realize that what we’re doing is wrong, but we don’t know how to stop. We tell ourselves it’s not that big of a deal. We’ll change our ways if it becomes a problem. Or maybe we don’t recognize our sin is a problem at all.

In the story of the prodigal son, we learn of a boy who “squandered his inheritance on a life of dissipation” (Luke 15:13). At the time, he probably enjoyed his pursuits without thinking about their consequences. However, after he spent all of his money and ran out of food, “he found himself in dire need” (Luke 15:14), and “he longed to eat his fill of the pods on which the swine fed, but nobody gave him any” (Luke 15:16). It was only after he reached this point of desperation that he realized he had a better life at home, and he returned to his family.

Hopefully, we do not have to reach a depth of despair before we return to God after we sin. Unfortunately, sometimes, we only realize just how far we have wandered from Him when our spirits spiral downward.

The good news is that God will welcome us back just as the father of the prodigal son greeted his lost boy: “While he was still a long way off, his father caught sight of him, and was filled with compassion. He ran to his son, embraced him and kissed him” (Luke 15:20). God sees us even when we feel separated from him by our sins, and He longs for us to take the road to repentance so He can welcome us back home.

All we have to do is turn away from sin and turn toward Him. We may think we’re a long way off when we start, and it’s tempting to doubt we’ll ever sift through all our sins on the way back to Him. But He covers us in His grace with every step we take; we just have to keep trusting Him as we move forward.

After I finish my workout this morning, I focus on two bags of clothes by the door. I recently cleared them out of my closet and brought them here because I didn’t know where else to put them. Now, I realize that keeping them in this holding place is similar to my procrastinating on a sinful habit I know I need to change. So, I pick up the clothes and carry them to my car with the confidence that I can tackle this decluttering project if I trust in God to lead me. This thought gives me hope, and that is what God wants us to have: hope in His plans for our future. When we keep our eyes focused on Him, we will stay on the correct course.