It had been a long time since I cleaned up my office. When I would look around, I would see nothing but chaos. It’s lucky my wife never comes up to this room or she would have my head. Or even worse, she might try and clean it up herself and then I’d never find anything.
When my office is a mess, I know what pile I need to look through if I’m looking for an article or some other paper. I know what unlabeled folder contains which of my various writing projects. I know, and only I know, how to wade through the knee-deep disaster I call my office (okay, it’s not that bad).
So this week, I made it one of my tasks to work on cleaning and organizing. I’ve moved furniture, cleared piles, thrown away unnecessary papers, emptied outdated folders, dusted, and vacuumed. My desk is clear. My long workstation can once again be seen. My cabinets have been emptied and refilled in a much more orderly fashion. Right now, the room looks fantastic.
But along the way, I thought of three lessons that I think apply to each of us as we work to order and clean up our lives. First, we must recognize our lives get messed up. I think this happens for similar reasons as the warzone I call my office. For instance, we get too busy to pay attention or to be cautious. Often, as I run in an out to meet with others, I just drop things on the desk instead of taking the time to put things in their proper places. Is it possible that we get too busy to pay attention to the details of our lives? Another reason might be that we don’t know how to keep an orderly office. While I know how to label folders and put things away, I don’t always know the best way to organize the supply cabinet, so things get disorderly after a while. In life, we sometimes don’t know how to make better decisions. Luckily we have a God who has given us instructions if we will just look in the Bible for answers. A third reason my office is often messy is that my kids tend to move things and put things in the wrong place (That right. I blamed my kids. Deal with it.). Often, our lives fall into disarray because of the influence of others. If we want to handle our messes, we must recognize the mess, get tired of the mess, and do something about it!
A second lesson from a messy office is that to clean it up, it is sometimes necessary to make a bigger mess. When cleaning my cabinet, I pulled everything out and laid it all over the office so I could see what I was dealing with. Sometimes we must do this with life also. It is troublesome to clean up your life, yet this is a necessary part of the process. Paul clearly says that it is work to express godly sorrow, with includes zeal, indignation at sin, and vindication of wrongdoing (2 Cor 7.9-11). Cleaning up life is always difficult, sometimes even painful, but it is worth it.
A third lesson is that once things are in place, it is important to keep them there. There is no point in struggling to create order out of chaos if you are just going to pile other things on those clean surfaces. This might mean changing your friends, moving out of your home, getting a new job, or many other difficult decisions. This could require avoiding certain activities or places. Having a clean life takes work. Sometimes it takes a little extra time to keep things in their place.It is peaceful sitting here in this clean office. Not only do I know where everything is, but I also don’t have to look at messes or spend extra time digging through piles. It is a nice feeling not being embarrassed when my wife walks in.
It feels good to sit here and work on clean surfaces and have little distractions. Likewise, there is peace in having an orderly life. When things are as they should be, when our lives are ordered by the instructions of God, when we are undistracted by the cares and messes of life, we can then truly live for God! When our lives are built on the same principles God commands, it is then we can be most productive and effective for His purposes.
"For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ" (2 Peter 1.5-8).