Spring cleaning kicked off early for the Desilets this year. Maybe we were just motivated or maybe it was because all this snow and cold weather left us with nothing else to do (*ding ding ding*), but this past Saturday we brought our fourth carful of bags and boxes to GreenDrop. In the process we’ve reclaimed three rooms, four closets, and our sanity!
It’s crazy how “stuff” builds up over the years, especially when you have kids. Toys, trinkets, clothing, shoes, ‘accessories,’ craft supplies, books, devices, equipment, and decorative or sentimental items are all a part of life, but they seem to multiply and accumulate of their own accord. Letting go of this “stuff” is hard because there are always toys they might still want to play with, clothes you might wear again, books you really are going to read at some point, and gadgets that will surely come in handy someday.
Unfortunately, as the stuff we accumulate multiplies, so does its domain in our houses and our hearts. We hold on to it because we think it’s going to help us, but it ends up weighing on us instead. Our collected stuff has a tendency to overwhelm us by creating chaos, increased frustration, and extra work as we try to manage it all. An overload of stuff makes us feel crowded and prevents us from using our space for what it was created for.
In John 3, when Nicodemus came to meet with Jesus, he was looking for answers. Jesus had been stirring up lots of attention with supernatural “signs,” leading people – especially the religious leaders – wondering where He was getting His power from (John 3:2). But Jesus’ response to Nicodemus’ inquiry only left him confused. Using figurative language, Jesus said, “unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God” (3:3). Then, when Jesus replied Nicodemus’ confusion with even more figurative language, “unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God” (3:5), he marveled, “How can these things be?” (3:9)
Carrying our 2,000-years-of-Christian-heritage baggage, we get a little judgy of Nicodemus. How could he not get it? But because of his Pharisee-and-ruler-of-the-Jews baggage, Nicodemus only associated ‘spiritual rebirth’ with the conversion of a non-Jew to Judaism. Why would someone who’s already a Jew, someone who’s already a part of God’s kingdom by physical birth, especially a leader of the Jews as he was, need this conversion? And when Jesus spoke of water, referring to baptism, this frustrated him even more as baptism was part of the conversion process. Again – why would someone who’s already a Jew need to participate in this “baptism of repentance” (Mark 1:4)?
As usual, it turns out that Jesus knew something Nicodemus didn’t know – that before we could experience the fullness of His Kingdom, we’d need to do some unloading first. It turns out material things aren’t the only things we accumulate – as we walk through life, our experiences, opinions, struggles, and sin tend to pile up and being “born again” with “repentance” represented a purging of the past in order to make space for Jesus.
Each of the four loads of “stuff” we’ve unloaded since January has contained at least one bag of my own clothing. Though I’m not a huge shopper, I do tend to hold on to things “just in case”. After the initial purge, I thought I had gotten it all, but the removal of that load only gave me the ability to see more that could go. And the same for the next load, and the next one, and the next one. I’m already filling the bag for round number five!
Though most of us can point to a moment we were “born again” as we “repented” and “entered” Jesus’ kingdom, it’s never a one-time gig. This initial unloading is only the beginning of the lifelong process of transformation, and every time we open wide our hearts in confession of sin or realization of a bias, we allow God to point out even more there is to get rid of. Every time I think I’m must have gotten it all, I find another way I’ve “conformed to the patterns of this world”. And every time I unload this “stuff” by acknowledging it to Him, I allow “the renewal of [my] mind” to continue. (Romans 12:2)
If you’re planning on visiting us anytime soon, you’ll be happy to know that our “guest room” is now an actual guest room. With all that unnecessary stuff removed, it can finally fulfill its purpose of giving you a place to stay!
According to Minimalism experts Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus, unloading our stuff isn’t about “having less, less, less; rather, we focus on making room for more: more time, more passion, more experiences, more growth, more contribution, more contentment. More freedom. Clearing the clutter from life’s path helps us make that room.”
I think Christianity gets a bad rap sometimes because people think we focus too much on “sin” and “wrong,” but repentance is not about calling yourself a bad person or embarking on a constant search for the negative. It’s quite the opposite – by ridding ourselves of the junk we’re carrying, we’re eliminating frustration and chaos and allowing the space in our minds to be used for what it was created for: communication and relationship with Jesus.
It’s time for some ‘spring cleaning’!
What’s been cluttering up the space in your heart and mind lately?
What sin have you been attempting to manage (or just reorganize) that you could release to Jesus today?
What experiences and biases have you accumulated that may be influencing what God has to say to you?