The Overflow! where souls are filled and faith is spilled

Heart Housecleaning

I’ve been cleaning closets this week; digging sweaters and fuzzy sleepers out of hibernation in the spare bedroom and sorting, sorting, sorting through toys, bookshelves and cupboards. As I’ve been re-organizing, I’ve found myself thinking about a conversation Lizzy and I had a few years ago when I was cleaning closets before the arrival of our fourth child.  My then six-year-old daughter’s comment was the springboard for the following article written in 2008.  I’m still no pro at “heart housecleaning”, but I love the image of making room in my life for the Word of God to roam unhindered.

 Heart Housecleaning: Making Room for the Word of God

I was buried in piles of old clothes and shabby shoes when my six-year-old poked her head into the master closet. “What are you doing in there, Mom?” Elizabeth asked.

“Making room for the baby,” I explained as I squeezed my bulging stomach past the economy-sized box of diapers barricading the doorway. We had never intended to fit a family of six into our modest three bedroom home, but I had long ago learned that God’s plans don’t always follow mine. One month from due-date, I slipped into action. Some serious engineering would make room for our unexpected fourth-born.

“Mom!”  Lizzy cried as she watched me with disbelief, “You can’t put the baby in a closet; babies need room to GROW!”

“Lizzy,” I countered, “I’m not clearing out closet space for the baby, just for the baby’s STUFF.”

A relieved smile crossed my daughter’s face as she backed away from the messy piles and made a beeline for her dollhouse before I could invite her help.

In the days that followed I was a merry-maid on the loose! I re-organized shelves, cleaned cupboards and marveled at the elbow room I unearthed along the way. I was admiring my clutter-free kitchen and paging through my Bible one morning when God interrupted my home make-over mission with an uncanny dose of truth. Let the Word of Christ, the Message, have the run of the house, began the passage in Colossians. Give it plenty of room in your lives (Colossians 3:16, The Message).

I rehearsed the unnamed hours I’d spent creating space in my home for the new life kicking in my womb; then considered the scripture’s challenge with a touch of guilt. I did my best to squeeze in some Bible reading here and a quick family devotion there. I shoved things aside to make room for Sunday worship and subscribed to a Christian magazine. But my day-to-day reality was like my overflowing closets-stuffed FULL. Surely I could give the Message “the run of the house” in another season of life -maybe when all the hallways weren’t barricaded with toys!

It wasn’t until baby Joshua arrived that I began to reconsider my flippant response to the Colossians command. As our newborn brought a fresh infusion of joy to our home, I shuddered to think of the blessings we’d have missed if we hadn’t made room for God’s unexpected gift. Humbled, I wondered how many unsolicited blessings I had already forfeited because I’d failed to make room for the Word. If I could convert a crowded home into an ample space for a baby to grow, surely I could transform my cluttered life into a spacious place for the Message to roam.

With renewed determination, I grabbed my calendar. I would clear time for the women’s Bible study I’d been asked to join and the prayer group that met at my children’s school. THEN the Message would have a footpath through my days! Despite my grand intentions, I quickly realized that sorting through my overstuffed life was far more complicated than reorganizing a crammed closet. While shirts and shoes could be eliminated, much of the “stuff” that filled my days was indispensable. Carpooling, homework helping, cooking and cleaning; managing laundry, diapers, Band-aid emergencies and writing deadlines- the list was endless and unpredictable.

My quandary was not unlike the time-dilemmas of other women I know. My mother-in-law lives “the Big Squeeze” as she stretches her time between an aging parent, a dozen grandchildren, and a husband with fragile health. My girlfriend is harnessed by the demands of single parenthood and the two jobs she works to make ends meet. A church acquaintance is restricted by full time ministry and the unspoken needs of a prodigal child. Was the Colossians command intended for women like us? Or is the Message of Christ free only to roam through lives with spotless calendars and adjustable agendas?

I was ready to give up when a jumbled journal entry offered me fresh perspective. “I took a pregnancy test today…” confided the writing in my personal journal. “We’re having another baby. I’m not sure whether to laugh or cry…” Page after page, I’d pondered the impending change- the revised look of the mini-van with more cargo, the challenge of meeting deadlines in the midst of round-the-clock feedings, the joy of watching another toddler learn to walk. As I reread my musings, I realized a momentous truth: by the journal’s end, I had become a mother of four. The baby that grew in my womb had first grown to completion in my mind. When my new son finally arrived, I had not only cleared space for his crib; I had made room for him in my heart.

While I didn’t fully understand it, I had stumbled on the key to the Colossians command. Making room for my Word begins in your mind, God seemed to say as I placed my dog-eared journal back on the shelf. What you need is some heart housecleaning!

Eager to tackle anything but my calendar, I responded, “Show me how!”

A simple conversation with my preschooler revealed the place to start. It was time to sweep out the cobwebs of disbelief and replace them with some fresh faith. “Why does my Sunday School teacher call the Bible the Living Word?” my four-year-old asked as we drove home from church. Before I could materialize an answer, Hannah muttered, “My Bible must come to life when I’m sleeping, because I’ve NEVER seen it move!” I suppressed a giggle while my youngster hatched a plan. “I’m staying awake ALL NIGHT so I can spy on my Bible,” she announced.

Later, as I tucked Hannah into bed, she asked me to place her children’s Bible on her bedside table so she could “see if it dances when it’s alive.” The innocent conversation left me disconcerted. I prayed for wisdom, but gained no strategy for reeling in my daughter’s expectations. Rather, God seemed to suggest that I could learn something from her childlike faith.

In the wake of my daughter’s attempted all-nighter, I stumbled on Hebrews 4:12. “The Word of God is alive and full of power.” Convicted, I began to realize my perception of God’s Word was flawed. While the Bible on my coffee table may not come to life while I sleep, the divinely inspired words contain the power to transform a soul. Sadly, if truth be told, I didn’t really expect God to speak directly to me when I opened the pages of His Word.

In her groundbreaking study, Believing God, Bible teacher Beth Moore states, “I am convinced that one reason we see so little of God is because we believe Him for so little.” Determined to dismantle the cobwebs of disbelief, I began to read my Bible with deliberate anticipation. Whether I had five minutes or fifty, I dove into the scriptures with the Psalmists’ eager prayer: “Open my eyes to see the wonderful truths in your instruction” (Psalm 119:18). Each morning I told God, “I believe you have a word for me today. Don’t let me miss what you have to say!” Eventually, I purchased an audio Bible so that I could listen to the Word while I did dishes, walked on the treadmill or chauffeured my busy family.

As the cobwebs cleared, I began to view the Bible in a new light. I relished the thrill of receiving insight from the Living Word. One morning, my daughter and I had exchanged frustrated remarks over her choice of school attire (she preferred ratty jeans to the new ones on her shelf). Though my child had left the house in the outfit I’d requested, watching her leave with tear stained cheeks ruined my sense of victory. That afternoon, before the bus returned from school, I sat down with my Bible, and the Message of Christ promptly stepped off the page and trampled across my soul. The Lord doesn’t see things the way you see them. God had told Samuel. People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart (1 Samuel 16:7). Once I recovered from my own spiraling pride, I chuckled at God’s perfectly timed message and realized with joy that the Word was beginning to “have the run of the house!’

Any seasoned housekeeper knows that dismantling a few cobwebs is only the beginning of the clean-up routine. As my heart housecleaning continued, I realized that I’d been far too careless with the stuff I’d stashed on my mental shelves. An honest inventory revealed that my mind bore as much mayhem as my calendar! Unguarded comparisons, snippets of gossip, and selfish grumbling filled my thought life. I needed to follow the Apostle Paul’s advice and clean up my act! Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out (Romans 12:2, The Message). I could not filter the clutter of unkempt thinking on my own. But with the Holy Spirit as my ally and the scripture as my weapon, I became a grime-buster in action! Armed with the timeless wisdom of Philippians 4:8 (which I fondly termed the P48 Super Sifter), I began to sift the murky thoughts that hung in the unchecked corners of my mind. Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Petulance, cynicism, and gossip have no place in a mind that dwells on things that are true, noble, right and pure. Self-pity, comparisons and slander can’t be disguised as lovely, admirable, excellent or praiseworthy.

Eventually, I learned to be proactive in my heart cleaning efforts. If mental murk created a hazy perspective, I took deliberate steps to “set my mind on things above” (Colossians 3:2). Naturally, the Message of Christ easily slipped through the P48 Super Sifter and left pools of unstrained truth where tainted thoughts had once been. When I entertained envy over a friend’s good fortune, I taped King Solomon’s prudent reminder to the dashboard of my mini-van: A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones (Proverbs 14:30). Later, when worry consumed my mind, I copied the Apostle Paul’s no-nonsense advice on a post-it-note. Stashed in my purse or slipped inside a coat pocket, the wise directive provided a tangible reminder: Do not be anxious about anything, but pray about everything… (Philippians 2: 6).

My once-organized kitchen cupboards have long since barreled into bedlam, while my master closet has become an obstacle course of outgrown infant paraphernalia and obscured maternity clothes. Little evidence remains from last year’s frenzied home-make over, but lasting proof suggests that my heart housecleaning has not been in vain. Just as little mud tracks across the kitchen floor remind me to savor the time with my littlest boy who is growing up quickly, so the tracks of blessing left by the Living Word remind me to keep clearing a trail for the Message of Christ!

Today’s Treasure: 
Let the Word of Christ, the Message, have the run of the house, began the passage in Colossians. Give it plenty of room in your lives -Colossians 3:16, The Message


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *