Spiritual Decluttering

I’ve been cleaning and organizing lately. (That won’t be a surprise to some of you!)

Having grown up in an incredibly cluttered and dirty home, clean surfaces and organized closets are pretty high on my priority list. My family jokes– at least I think they’re joking– about how often they can’t find things because mom has found a better place for whatever they are looking for at that moment.

Honestly, though, it doesn’t matter how much organizing I do; there always seems to be one more area that clamors for control. Right now, it’s our upstairs storage closet. With its locked door and out-of-the-way location, it’s easy to forget just what a mess of books, pictures, old helmets, humidifiers, and papers it is.

All-day, every day, I go about my regular routine without ever giving that closet another thought. But sometimes, late at night, when my mind is wandering in search of sleep, that closet mocks me and reminds me of its presence. I begin to mind-organize all that clutter as I drift off to sleep, but go-figure, I never really get around to making the changes that I’ve visualized. That hidden closet is a dark blot on my Queen of Clean reputation. 

In a way, that closet and the way I can ignore it is very much like the daily goings-on of mothering. We go through our day changing diapers, wiping noses, refereeing quarrels, reading books, giving baths, feeding snacks, and the list goes on and on. (Wow! Writing that out reminded me just how much work we moms do each day!!) 

We take care of the big and little people in our care, but we do it without taking the time to deal with the hidden closet of our hearts. It’s much easier to point out our children’s sin than it is to turn the key and open the door of our hearts for God to come in and purge, clean, and reorganize. 

We have oh-so-logical reasons for allowing sin to linger. We’re too busy. We don’t have time to really deal with it. Our sins are so minor that they can’t matter that much. Our rationalizations don’t erase our messy heart-closets.

When we don’t deal with our sin, we’re ineffective in helping our children deal with their sin.

When we don’t deal with our sin, we will be constantly frustrated by our hearts’ lack of peace.

When we don’t deal with our sin, we become hypocrites and lose our ability to bring joy and blessing into our family.

Not dealing with our own sin is a BIG DEAL!

As I’ve been considering the need to make sure my own sin closet is clean before addressing issues with my kids, (It doesn’t matter how old our kids are… there will always be issues to discuss:/) the Lord brought me to Psalm 51:1-3, 7, 10) Here’s what David wrote after dealing with the consequences of his sin with Bathsheba.

Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; 

According to your great compassion, blot out my transgressions. 

Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.

For I know, my transgressions and my sin is always before me.

Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean;

Wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.

Create in me a pure heart, O God,

And renew a steadfast spirit in me. 

There’s so much to unpack in the Psalm, but here are a few thoughts that have helped me… I hope they will be a blessing to you, as well.

First, David recognized his need for forgiveness. He didn’t rationalize his sin. He didn’t blame it on anyone else. (Bathsheba, Nathan the prophet who pointed out his sin, his circumstances, etc.) He just admitted that he was a transgressor.

How easy it is to come to God with a rationalizing heart. “Lord, it’s those children.” “If they’d just obey.” “I’m so tired; I couldn’t stop myself from yelling.”

Trust me; I get it– we’ve all been there!

David didn’t do that. He plainly acknowledged his sin. However, David equally plainly acknowledged the loving, compassionate character of God. He cried out to God in full expectation that God would answer and cleanse him of his sin.

God isn’t shocked by our confession of sin. He’s patiently waiting for us to come to Him in repentance so that He can cleanse us of our sin and make us pure vessels for His service.

Isn’t it interesting that David said his sin was always before him? For me, this is almost a laughable reality of parenting. So, so often, the sin that I’m addressing in my child’s actions or attitude is a direct reflection of my own sin!

That’s why we have to be conscious of our sin. It muddies everything. We think we’re doing such a great job catching our children’s sin, while in fact, our own sin is negating the truth of our message. Just like that ‘unnoticed’ closet, our sin waits to be dealt with before we deal with anyone else’s.

Isn’t God good, though? When He cleanses us, He renews us and gives us the steadfast spirit we need to press on. When we are clean before God, we will be able to address our children’s issues with a pure heart. We will be strengthened with a steadfast spirit to help them be cleansed in the same way God has cleaned our hearts.

Our families may never realize that we are pointing out their sin without paying attention to our own. Many of our kids put us on a faulty my-parents-never-sin pedestal. We can become experts at hiding our locked-closet sin. Sometimes, however, our unconfessed sin isn’t as hidden as my messy closet. Sometimes, it’s like a stinky pile of dirty laundry right in the middle of the room. As we’re speaking words of correction and direction, our children can’t miss the smell and clutter.

Whether it’s hidden or obvious, unconfessed sin will thwart our best efforts to model Christlike living for our children. Don’t wait another minute! Confess your sin to God, accept His forgiveness, rejoice in a pure heart, and press on with a new steadfast spirit.