Clearing Out The Clutter
A few years ago, I decided I would become a minimalist. Inspired one evening after watching a Netflix documentary about how to live a simplistic and minimal lifestyle, I eyed up and stared down every object, every article of clothing and each gizmo we had collected and accumulated over the years because this mama bear was in the mood for clearing out the clutter from our house and we were only going to keep what I deemed necessary and essential.
Don’t you find we can be the same in our relationship with God? We bring our minimalistic approach to Him because we want Him to keep clearing out the clutter from our past lives. We ask Him to sweep out what we deem to be all that messy rubbish and rubble from our past, taking all our piled-up debris from the corners of our minds and leaving us with a blank and bare canvas that is clean and untouched, one that has no room for clutter, or mess or disorder. However, that’s not how God works.
God looks at our dysfunction differently. He asks us why we’re so focused on clearing out the clutter from our lives, why we’re so uncomfortable at others coming in and taking one look at our mishmash medley and wondering why we haven’t got rid of it all. So, we eye up and stare down every dream and expectation that ended up with disappointment, each friendship that ended in betrayal, every flawless thing we admired that’s become broken. We choose to pack it all up in a box and hide it in the garage or basement. Out of sight out of mind as the saying goes, right?
And yet still, God sifts through all our cares and worries, He searches through the boxes of our past we want to stay hidden and He sees the beauty and value in it all. All the clutter we want rid of, cleared up, sanitized. All our past is taped up in boxes we’ve labelled ‘junk’ making sure it is kept hidden in the dark ready to go so we don’t have to deal with it anymore. However, God says it’s all valuable.
And so, He slowly opens the boxes and takes a look inside each one. He picks up and handles all our fears and insecurities we’ve packed away from our pasts and He smiles at us and says, “If you want Me to clear out the clutter from your life, get rid of your past mistakes, clean you up enough so you live an ordered, perfect life, then that’s ok, I can do that if you want Me to. But I need you to know that I cannot use you to powerfully reach others if I clean up all that you deem clutter. When I look at all this clutter from your past I see it from a different perspective, a higher purpose for it. And personally, I look at the clutter and I wouldn’t change a thing.”
Hold on a minute, God, You wouldn’t change a thing!? I thought You wanted my past clear and clean. I thought You needed space to move. I thought You wanted me to keep clearing out the clutter from my past life so I could have a fresh start with You. I don’t know what’s going on, God. Why is my clutter so important to keep?
In his book, Wide Awake, Erwin McManus wisely says, “After you enter into a relationship with God, you’re not translated into a different universe…you have the same problems, the same weaknesses, the same circumstances, only now the expectations have changed. You may not fully realise or recognise that what is changing is actually you. The way God changes your life is by changing you.”
Let me pause here for a moment and say that my minimalistic attitude didn’t last. One documentary was not able to convince or change me enough for my new mindset to stick permanently regardless of how much I tried to change. And that’s why God unpacks all the clutter we so desperately want to get rid of in our lives because He knows that if we’re the ones who keep taking over and clearing out the clutter, deciding what stays and what goes then we’ll label the boxes containing all the good things God is able to use to reach out to others as ‘junk’ and we won’t change our mindset to His kingdom way of thinking.
The trouble with doing all the clearing out is that we cannot keep it up. Clearing out every piece of clutter, each thing we believe is collateral damage from our past and fixing ourselves up won’t last. Instead of allowing God’s extravagant love to get rid of and keep what He deems necessary and essential in our lives, we want to be the ones in control of all the clearing.
As Paul points out in Romans 11:33, ‘Have you ever come on anything quite like this extravagant generosity of God, this deep, deep wisdom? It’s way over our heads. We’ll never figure it out.’ We’re so busy packing our boxes and trying to clear up the clutter we’ve fallen into the trap of believing none of it is useful. However, if we are the ones decluttering our pasts we don’t stop to see how God views our past experiences.
Everything we’ve eyed up, stared down and packed away in a box from our past, the things we feel have no place in our minimalist thinking anymore is where God does some of His best work. Another saying goes like this; someone’s trash is another’s treasure. And the things you deem trash God turns into treasure. All those broken dreams, every disappointment, each betrayal, and all those wounds that have come from each experience is where our compassion gets melded, our hearts break for others and our empathy is expanded within the darkness of the clutter.
God sifts through all the stuff you’ve gotten ready for your jumble or rummage sale and He says, “I see that you’re trying to cancel out, break off and eliminate each part of the pain of your past. I understand why you’ve asked Me to clear out the clutter. But you have to let go, you have to stop trying to control and clean up your circumstances. Look at the scars on My Son’s hands and feet, they are a testament to clearing away all fear and doubt. His scars were shaped and formed within the clutter, they were created in the middle of the mess and in the manic mayhem of His circumstances so you were able to live in freedom.”
And when you allow God to sift through all your boxes filled with fear, doubt and insecurities on whether He could ever use what you deem to be ‘junk’ from your past, He’ll ask you to lean forward and lean into the endless possibilities of how He will use what you see as clutter and use it to help others to find their way home.
What have you packed away in your past deeming it to be clutter? How would you be able to let God use your past experiences to help others who could be going through the same thing?
I pray today, that you will see your past from a different perspective and allow God to take all the clutter and mess and turn it into a beautiful testimony. Amen