CBM National Intern – Cleaning Out
By CBM National intern, Stephanie Schwan –
It’s blog time again! I’ve been blessed to be working at Camp Ta-Pa-Win-Go in Tennessee for my final rotation as a CBM National Intern! The staff here is awesome and great to work with. This is the time of year when the weather is turning cold and the leaves are falling. Summer has passed, most of the rental groups have gone home, and Skoolzoutt and Released Time Bible Classes are in full swing. This is the time of year for sorting out, paring down, and figuring out what we really need and what we don’t.
We’ve been doing a lot of cleaning out here — cleaning out the housekeeping building and the basement, pulling weeds, tidying up the camp’s yard sale bus (so that you can actually walk down the center aisle instead of mountaineering over the veritable wall of old lamps and garbage bags full of clothes, Yodel-A-Hee-Hoo!). We’ve been throwing out holey towels, getting rid of stained sheets, tossing out containers without lids and lids without containers, pitching broken baskets, tossing grody blankets, rearranging, reorganizing, and sending a lot of stuff to the dumpster, the burn pile, and the yard sale stack. I’ve been doing this too in my own life. Ripped jeans? Toss ’em. Old sneakers falling apart? Good-bye! T-shirt I love that just doesn’t fit the way it used to? Somebody else can love it now. Waterlogged book from that time my trunk leaked and let the rain in? *sigh* So sad, but it’s not worth keeping anymore. Sweater I’ve never actually worn? Salvation Army.
All of this has me thinking about what else we, as believers, need to clean out of our lives, what I need to clean out of my life. Maybe we have some preferences that are just that – preferences – which may be causing division. We’ve all been guilty of this. Maybe it’s time to concede. Is it really that important? Like really? Probably not. Traditions that we hang onto because we have no idea how else we would do things? Because that’s just the way we’ve always done it? It could be time for an update to keep us from getting into a rut. Or maybe we’re already in that rut and it’s time to call someone else in to help us get out of it. An old grudge that is preventing unity? That isn’t doing anybody any good. Time to send it to the dumpster with that old toaster that hasn’t worked in years. A pet sin that we keep saying we’re finally going to get serious about beating? It’s time to get a friend (or two, or three) to help us do what it takes, to carry that thing out to the curb and leave it there with that old floral couch that weighs a million pounds and smells terrible. It’s time. It’s time to replace it with something better. Today is the day. Not next weekend. Not “one of these days.” Today.
When we start cleaning out, it can be tough to know where to start and it often feels overwhelming because there’s just so much to do. When I pray about what God would change in me, the Holy Spirit brings up things faster than I can write them down. We all have a long way to go. But in the long run it almost doesn’t matter exactly where we start as long as we get started and don’t stop. In the process of becoming more Christ-like, it’s the end result that matters — being conformed to the image of the Son. It’s less important that you choose to start by working on the gossiping problem before the giving problem, and so much more important that you are being responsive God’s conviction and direction about what needs to change. Just start with the first thing the Holy Spirit prods you about, and go from there. When we look back, we won’t see the work, just the results, the wonderful progress we’ve made, and the feeling of joy and newness that comes with it. I don’t even remember what that sweater I donated looked like because I don’t miss it. I don’t remember which books I tossed because in the end, they really weren’t all that important to my life. I don’t really miss the stuff I’ve cleaned out because those things weren’t doing me any good.
The apostle Paul shares a similar sentiment in Hebrews 12:1-2, “Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” So many of us, myself included, have brought our rock collections with us on this cross-country backpacking trip. We get bogged down with extra weights which can range from useless things that just don’t matter to very damaging behaviors and attitudes that break relationships and hinder our growth. Those hoarders you see on TV didn’t get that way overnight. They didn’t have somebody deliver a truckload of junk to their otherwise normal house. It happened over the course of years in a slow accumulation of things they didn’t need to keep, that weren’t helping, but that they just couldn’t throw away. Now it controls their whole life. And much of the time they don’t even recognize that it’s a problem because they can’t imagine a normal life where they aren’t surrounded by leaning towers of old newspapers from the 80s. So many of us are the same way.
We need to clean out our lives, but we’ve grown so accustomed to the clutter that we don’t know where or how to begin.
James tells us where we can start: “Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls” (James 1:21). Peter shares the same thought in more detail: “Therefore, laying aside all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all evil speaking, as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the Word, that you may grow thereby, if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious.” Cleaning out the things we don’t need leaves us open to the things we do. It allows us to replace the clutter, not with new clutter, but with functionality and action and growth. This month I would challenge you (and challenge myself) to look through your life and ask the Holy Spirit to show you at least one thing that needs to go — a bad attitude, a bad habit, a bad mindset, whatever — and the first step to replacing it with something better. As you do, dig in to God’s word, seeking to outgrow those old, useless things and grow into something new.