We are having a bit of an early spring-clean in our house — reconfiguring our storage spaces, sorting through our stuff and getting rid of whatever is not worth keeping. We are tired of tripping over clutter. There is also a certain pleasure in simply tidying up all those things which we use a lot and are necessary and valuable parts of our lives. And occasionally we realize we are running low on some essential because all the containers in the cupboard are nearly empty (tea seems to suffer this crisis most commonly in our house!).
My soul is in a similar need of a declutter, but the junk in there is a lot harder to clean up. It’s easy to go through life tossing stuff into the wardrobe of my heart and quickly slamming the door shut before too much tumbles back out. Accumulating piles of experiences, ideas and assumptions which I have good intentions of sorting through but never get around to doing. Then there is the stuff I don’t like, am afraid to open up, or hate to be reminded of, that is buried in there somewhere too. All this accumulates into a teetering stack which occasionally topples over, prompting me to kick and shove it into a corner, hurriedly restacking the pile so it doesn’t keep tripping me up each day.
Perhaps the wardrobe in my heart isn’t as big as some folks have, or maybe I put way too much in there. Whatever the reason, I’m finding that the door doesn’t close properly anymore and the hinges are broken so stuff kind of spills out. Unfortunately, I don’t have much control over what falls out, but I can control a lot of what goes in. I can actively choose what to read, view or listen to, even who I hang out with. I also get a lot of choice regarding not viewing, reading or listening to ugly, toxic stuff. Discernment and wisdom from others is also helpful in identifying some seemingly benign things which can fester and mutate into toxic, ugly stuff in my heart.
What about experiences over which I have no control or choice? This is where sorting through and processing the piles and stacks of stuff is really important. Every single experience, idea or assumption needs to be picked up, seen for what it is, and filed appropriately — much of the filing should be straight to the trash heap, not a ‘too hard’ pile in my heart!
Jesus talked a lot about the stuff in our hearts:
For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil. (Matthew 12:34-35 ESV)
Whatever is stored up in my heart will be expressed out of my mouth, by my actions and in the overall course of my life. In Mark 7:20-23, Jesus explains what sort of things come out of our hearts and pollute us (and others). There are actually several issues causing this pollution — we are all by nature sinful (see Romans 7:18) and need to be made new in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17). Without such renewal through Jesus Christ, the outpouring of our hearts will always be corrupt.
Yet, even as a born-again Christian I don’t instantly become pure, I need to be progressively transformed by the renewing of my mind, which occurs as I refuse to unthinkingly embrace the ideas of the world around me and have a realistic perception of myself (see Romans 12:2-3). What has the power to transform my mind and give me a truthful understanding of myself?
It may sound simplistic, but the measuring stick I use is the Bible. Jesus prayed for His Father to purify us through His word, that’s enough recommendation for me (John 17:17). As I read the Bible, the Holy Spirit uses the disparity between what I’m reading and who I currently am to show me where growth or change is needed. In the Bible I also learn the truth about God and about human nature, which helps me to face and understand the lies in my own soul that can fester and corrupt all my interactions with others.