Spring is a funny season in Wisconsin. One day, it will be 55 degrees and sunny and people break out the shorts and forego the jackets. And the next? Well, you’re pulling out that recently abandoned jacket because it’s again below freezing and snow is flying about in the wind. That’s about the only thing you can count on during Wisconsin’s spring: wind, wind, and more wind. But as long as that wind is blowing away the cold and bringing in the warm, I’m okay with it.
Spring is a season of transition and new beginnings. It’s kind of like the New Year all over again, with those resolutions being renewed and fresh determination setting the heart on fire. There is just something about seeing robins and Canadian geese returning, green grass and flowers sprouting from the dirt, the sun warming and melting snow, that makes one believe they can rise out of whatever muck has been entangling them and join those birds in flight. The soul sheds its apathy and dreariness and soars with renewed life.
There are definitely times when the soul needs to do some shedding. When some light needs to be shed on those cluttered corners of the heart so some spring cleaning can take place within. The physical is not the only thing that needs to be cleaned. Our homes and yards are not the only places we should be decluttering and weeding out. There is the spiritual that needs attention; our hearts, that so easily and quickly get junked up with lies and negative thoughts, with not-so-good habits and attitudes, with clouded emotions and perspectives, with distractions and misaligned priorities. Maybe we should do some spring cleaning in this sacred spot, this wellspring of life?
For we are the temple of the Holy Spirit, but when the temple gets filled with clamoring noise and tempting sights, distraction pulls us from worship and and drowns out the sound of the Spirit’s voice. The junk starts to mess with this Divine relationship. The lies and misalignments and clouded sight hinder our living in the truth and abundant life Jesus gives.
Several books in the New Testament are letters written with teaching and instructions for living in relationship with Jesus. We read such phrases as, “Throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles” (Hebrews 12:1), “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice” (Ephesians 4:31), “Let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminate body and spirit.” (2 Corinthians 7:1)
These letters weren’t written to the idol-worshipping pagans, they were written to the church; to those who had chosen to follow Jesus and live for Him. They were written to teach and encourage and remind.
Kind of surprising? Well, maybe not so surprising. Because even us good girls need decluttering. We shouldn’t beat ourselves up about it or compare ourselves to others over it or feel hopeless and worthless because of it. That’s not why these words were written. They were written to teach us who Jesus is and who we are in Him and how to live in that identity founded in relationship, to encourage us in His promises and to live for Him no matter what, to remind us of truth and all He has done for us.
So instead of being discouraged, we should choose to submit to the One who purifies, learn during the cleansing process, and willingly throw off and get rid of the sin and junk so we can run all the harder to Him who has set us free.
Renewing the Mind
Romans 12:2 says, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”
So often, what clutters and mucks up our souls the most are destructive thought patterns. Thinking that is based on lies, not on Jesus’ truth. We get entangled and bogged down by discouragement, fears, insecurities and worries that stem from these lies. I’m not good enough. I’m not lovable. I’ll fail. Is God really with me? Can He really provide?
Are there lies and negative thoughts cluttering up your soul?
Our thinking must be renewed for transformation to take place. Insecure to confident. Fearful to brave. Worrisome to trusting. No longer conforming to the thought patterns and actions of the world, but living in the truth of God’s Word. (For more on renewing the mind, see this post.)
Check the Attitude
We can have some bad attitudes at times, can’t we? Even while doing good things, our attitudes about it can be wrong. Complaining in the heart. Judging others in our minds. Thinking sassy and snarky remarks. Acting out of self-centered motivation.
It’s important to take the time to check our attitude. As we go about our day, do we in all we put our hands to “work at it with all [our] heart, as working for the Lord”? (Colossians 3:23) Or is our heart not in it and instead complaining or feeling bitter or thinking something completely opposite of what we are saying and doing?
In Philippians 2 we are told, “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made Himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to death - even death on a cross!” (vv. 5-8)
Jesus attitude was one of selfless, humble submission to God. Ours is to be the same. And this attitude results in actions that are obedient to God’s will. When we work at our responsibilities and relationships with our heart, we are truly “working for the Lord.”
Where’s Your Focus?
Those destructive thought patterns and bad attitudes typically abound in my heart when I’m not spending set-apart time with Jesus. Whether it’s laziness, business or distractions keeping me from dedicated time in God’s Word and in prayer, when these are neglected, my focus hones in on things other than God. My perspective and priorities shift from the lens and foundation of the truth to those of self-centeredness and flesh desires.
Colossians 3 tells us, “Set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.” (vv. 1-2)
The focus of our eyes and the foundation on which we build our priorities is to be Jesus.
In Hebrews 12, where we are commanded to throw of hindrances and sin, we are also urged to “fix our eyes on Jesus.” (v. 2) Our souls cannot be decluttered if our eyes are focused on anything but Jesus. For “the eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness.” (Matthew 6:22-23)
One of the best ways to declutter is to keep things from becoming cluttered in the first place. While this isn’t always easy, and we’ll still find some little weeds that need to pulled, we need to guard what we let take up room in our hearts. This spring cleaning for the soul needn’t (and shouldn’t) take place only at Spring time. Renewing the mind, taking on the attitude of Christ, and keeping the focus on Him are to be constant endeavors.
So let’s do some Spring cleaning; some decluttering and throwing off and untangling. Spring cleaning isn’t just for the house and yard, and soaring isn’t just for the birds.