Summer Cleaning

This article originally appeared in the April 2011 issue, but I thought I’d repost here because heart cleaning should never be limited to just one season.

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As I type this, beauty surrounds me. Lush leafy branches lazily sway in the gentle breeze above, providing me with a canopy of cool shade. In front of me stretches a valley dotted with cyprus trees and patches of olive groves. The sweet scent of flowers and new grass fills the air. Surrounded by such beauty and serenity, it’s easy to be enthralled with my Creator. It’s easy to let the poetic words of the psalmists nurture my heart like a healing balm. It’s easy to feel at peace with the world and strive to follow Christ with all that is within me. But when I close the Bible, leave the peace, and step back into the real world, all those feelings fade away. No longer is it easy to let words of adoration slip off my tongue. No longer am I amazed by God’s creativity and love. I’m frustrated with homework, bitter about difficult relationships and situations, and prone to let my Bible collect dust.

Spring awakens a desire within me to dig deeper and transform myself into the young lady God wants me to be. After a long winter of living a cluttered life, I’m ready to do some spring cleaning. I imagine you might feel the same way. If you do, grab a rag, put on some old clothes, and get ready for some intense cleaning.

To root out all the yuckiness in your heart, first take a look at your heart with God and let Him point you to the sin in your life. Ask yourself the tough questions. A few months ago, I read a really good article. In that article, the author asked the reader to think of what she (or he) loves, really loves. She used the example of chocolate. She then asked readers this question, “Can you honestly say this to God?: Your love is more satisfying than chocolate.” When I read that, it really revealed a lot about more heart. What does it reveal about yours? Once you can identify what is taking place of Christ in your life, you can start to get rid of it.

Now that you’ve identified what is in your heart, you need to understand how it gets there. What we see and hear will seep into our heart and will come out in our actions and thoughts. Each time you watch a movie and decide to not fast-forward through some scenes, you’re throwing a banana peel into your heart. Same goes for music with unwholesome lyrics, websites with provocative themes and pictures, and books and magazines that lead you down the wrong path. It might not seem like a big deal, but it adds up. And before you know it, your heart will be one big pile of stinky garbage. As Christians, we’re supposed to be the pleasing aroma of Christ. But you can’t do that if your heart is full of junk.

How do you sort through what’s healthy for your heart and what’s rotten? Use this verse as your guideline.

“But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking,which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving… Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret…”

-Ephesians 5:3-5, 8b-12

Though it might sound extreme, it’s the only way to really scrub all the dirt out of your heart.

Now that you’ve sorted out all the garbage from your heart, it’s pretty empty in there. Saturate your heart with God’s Truth and keep an open connection with Him all day. Wade through your itunes, books, movies, magazines, and TV choices with Ephesians 5 in mind. Add wholesome, God-honoring choices to those that passed the test. Choose to spend time with people who will point you back to God, instead of away from Him. Un-bookmark the websites that steer your thoughts away from God and replace them with Christian sites. When you have a spare moment, spend that time in prayer instead of mindlessly daydreaming or skimming Facebook. Again, this all might seem a little too extreme and painful, but in the end, it’ll be worth it.

You’ve identified the sin in your life, you’ve found the source, and you’ve, hopefully, cut off that source. Your heart is nice and clean and smells as sweet as roses. But what about a week from now? A month from now? How quickly will the garbage settle back in until another spring cleaning session is in need?

In the hymn Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing, there’s a line that goes, “Prone to wander, Lord I feel it/Prone to leave the God I love” We’re humans; we sin. You’re a human; you sin. We’re prone to wander from God. We push aside His love for cheap imitations and we let garbage collect.

I’m what you call a neat-freak. I love to organize everything. I’ve even organized classmate’s desks when they weren’t looking (There was stuff everywhere, what was a girl to do?). When my room is messy, my whole life is out of order. Whenever I clean my room, I look around with satisfaction and smile. I question myself, “How could I ever have let it get messy? Never again! Never. Again.” Three days later? It’s a mess.

The same thing happens with our hearts. We’re prone to wander, even though we know God’s way is best.

So, what to do when we’re prone to wander? The hymn continues, “Here’s my heart, O take and seal it, seal it in thy courts above” Skipping a few lines back, “Let thy goodness, like a fetter/Bind my wandering heart to thee” When you’re prone to wander, give your heart to God. Give Him your weaknesses and let Him give you the strength to keep your heart clean.

So, how’s your heart doing? Hopefully, it’s squeaky clean. You’re going to have to constantly dust your heart to keep it free from dirt, but hopefully, it won’t be in need of any spring cleaning for a long time.

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