Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.—James 4:8
Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first. Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first.—Revelation 2:4,5
Spring has arrived in dramatic fashion in Lassen County. It seems like just a couple of weeks ago we were complaining about snow, and then last week I got a sunburn at my son’s baseball game. All of a sudden the hillsides are green and my yard is full of dandelions. We spent last weekend working around the house, because it felt like winter had disappeared overnight and we woke up to find we were behind on half a dozen different projects. Even though I tried to do things right last fall and prepare as best I could, our place still looked like a mess, because the last several months of harsh weather have taken their toll.
Life on this earth is like that. Over time, things fall apart. They get dirty and old. Air conditioning units fail, sprinkler pipes crack, plastic gets brittle, paint fades, wood rots, and metal rusts. Because of this, our homes require constant maintenance. It’s not good enough to do the things that need to be done once; after a season or two you’ll have to come back and do them again. If we are diligent and attentive, we can keep our homes clean and beautiful. If we let things slide, they will go from bad to worse. This is why many people have a tradition of “spring cleaning.” When the weather turns, it’s a signal to get out the list and take care of the things that have been put off over the winter.
Our staff at Community Church have developed a habit of an annual spring clean-up of our main building, but in our case this doesn’t involve landscaping or deep cleaning; it’s just dealing with junk. We go through all the rooms in the building, and both of our storage units behind the building, and we throw away old children’s ministry crafts and VBS curriculum, unwanted items that were “donated” over the past year, rotten wood that we’ve realized we’ll never get around to burning in the fire pit, etc. We clean out cupboards and shelves and drawers. We pull all the expired food out of the refrigerator and the freezer in the kitchen, and identify which dishes need to be returned to their owners. This year, because the ground on our property has been so wet and muddy, spring cleaning meant we were finally able to properly store the Christmas decorations that had been cluttering up our upstairs classroom for the past four months. When we were done, we knew that the building was ready for another year of busy ministry.
It’s a good feeling, getting rid of unnecessary junk. It feels good to be clean and ready for whatever God has next. But there’s a cost. Two years ago, the first time we did this, it took us two days, and we filled up two dumpsters plus a dump trailer, because it had been a long time since anyone had thrown anything away; things had just been crammed into corners to make room for more. This year, because we’ve stayed on top of things, it only took 3 hours, but we still filled a trailer with items that were headed for the dump. It takes planning, and time, and labor, and a willingness to ask the hard question, “Do we really need this?” Of course, it would be easier to skip spring cleaning, and in the short term it would probably be pretty harmless to do so. But after a while things would start to pile up, and the junk would begin to get in the way of the things God is calling us to do in the future.
You probably see where I’m going with this. What’s true for a church building is also true for the people of the church. What’s true of my house is true of my heart. The reality of sin is that there is junk in me that needs to be gotten rid of. And doing it once is not enough. I can identify a sin and, with God’s help, remove it from my life, but this is no guarantee that I won’t be dealing with it again in a few months. I can develop good habits of discipline and productivity, but over time I drift back into easier, lazier ways of doing things. Constant maintenance is required, and a willingness to look in the mirror from time to time and ask, “Do I really want these things in my life?” If we’ll do this, God will continue His refining work, making us more like His Son, shaping us to better enjoy the life He intends for us. If we’re unwilling to do it, the junk will pile up, and we’ll have a harder and harder time being the people He calls us to be.
Is there junk in your life? If you’re human, chances are there is, and chances are you don’t even remember when it got there. Sometimes we plunge into sin in an act of outright rebellion, but more often it creeps in slowly, over time, and grows when we are not paying attention. But it won’t leave the way it came. Junk doesn’t disappear on its own. It has to be dealt with, decisively, and then repeatedly. For me, dealing with my junk in this season has meant taking Facebook off of my phone. It has meant turning my desk so my computer screen is visible to people walking by in the hallway, so I’m less tempted to waste time at work. Simple, intentional steps like this give God the opportunity to grow us and purify us, and to get us back on track when we begin to drift. The longer we put them off, the more painful and time-consuming it will be when we finally submit to the cleansing process.
This week, ask God the question: “What in my life needs to go to the dump? What needs to be cleaned out to make room for the good things You want to do next?” Pray that the Holy Spirit will help you identify the junk and give you the strength and courage to throw it away.