By Meghan Congdon
It’s February, and already the tree outside my bedroom window droops with lush green leaves. We’ve officially got a month to go, but in Austin, spring starts early. It’s always been my favorite season. Shy buds peeking out of dead trees, the happy symphony of birdsong, the sweet scent of fresh flowers. I love watching new calves totter around on their wobbly legs as I drive down our Texas roads. God seems to reveal His promises in the gentle warmth of spring. Promises of hope, birth, and renewal.
For many of us, this season brings with it another very important ritual.
Shaking the layers of winter dust off the curtains. Cleaning the carpets, leaving them fresh with the scent of elbow grease. Pulling the couch away from the wall and picking up the snack-wrapper-remnants of weekend Netflix marathons.
Spring cleaning is good for us, and not just on a physical level. Psychology Today states that spring cleaning “has been associated with improved mood, decreased stress, and heightened creativity.” That’s wonderful, but it’s caused me to stop and think. As a believer, I know that so much that we experience and endure moves from the inside out. Repentance is a change of heart that results in a change of behavior, not the reverse. Proverbs 4:23 says, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” From the inside out. And in Philippians 1:6, Paul tells us, “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” That good work is on the inside. Of course, only God Himself can cleanse us of sin, but we can cooperate with the Holy Spirit in the renewal of our minds (Romans 12:2). So, when we consider our spring cleaning, it might be wise to approach this with the same inside-out attitude, and start the scrubbing with our minds and hearts.
I’d like to look at , split up over two weeks. Let’s focus on the first three.
1. Declutter your schedule
“I’m just so busy.” Honestly, friends. I can’t tell you how many times a week I hear this sentence come out of someone’s mouth (including my own). Sometimes it’s my exhausted single-mom-of-four friend who hasn’t had a chance to do her own laundry this week. Sometimes it’s my frazzled friend who works regularly works sixty hours and heads up three small groups, who desperately wants to dye her hair but can’t find the time. Can I tell you a secret? I can’t think of anyone who isn’t busy. We kind of worship busyness over here in the Western world. It’s a sneaky idol, parading around as if it is an indication of strength, capability, or success. And when we fill up our schedules with more, more, more, we lose time for the things that really matter. God wants us to stop. To be still. To know that He is God. I challenge you to look over your commitments. As you do, ask yourself these questions: Does this commitment bring me closer to God? Does this affect my relationship with my spouse/family? Does this cause me to let my responsibilities slip? Consider your answers, and start simplifying your schedule. Busyness does not equal success.
2. Shake out your relationships
Here’s an example of one of those “things that really matter”. We were designed for relationship, with God and with each other. We need community. We want community. Sometimes, in the hustle and bustle of life, marriages become stagnant. Friendships go neglected. Family relationships begin to grow thorns. It’s easy to blame problems on other people, but we’re talking about two-way streets, here. I’ve just suggested that we all start crossing the excess off the schedule, but maintaining these relationships is important and requires effort. Make sure that you give yourself time in your schedule to be social. On your daily commute, pray for your spouse, your family, your friends. Call up a friend you haven’t spoken with in awhile, just to chat. My specific challenge is this: the next time you’re alone with a spouse, friend, or family member, turn off your phone. Ask them to turn theirs off, too. Be present. Give your undivided attention. Enjoy the company.
3. Deep clean your self-talk
You are the one human with whom you spend the most time. You hear your own voice more often than anyone else’s, usually inside your own mind. Isn’t it worth making the effort to be good company? Ladies, we’re pretty hard on ourselves. We often make a habit of scrutinizing our every flaw, viciously condemning our every mistake. Often this is on a physical level, but sometimes it goes much deeper- into our spiritual failings.
Let me make this clear: No one is righteous, not even one (Romans 3:10). All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). All of us are in desperate need of a Savior. Jesus Christ, Son of God, left His place in glory and came to earth to endure the cross on your behalf. On my behalf. This glorious reconciliation of God and man is His great joy. Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1). Whoa. Wait a minute. So, you’re telling me I don’t need to keep beating myself up over that horrible thing I did? There’s no condemnation? Check out Psalm 103:12 to see what happens to our sin once we’ve repented and received forgiveness. I could spend hours spelling out a whole lesson on self-talk and worth (and maybe even should), but the bottom line is our great God desires our hearts and our minds and our whole selves, knowing that we absolutely cannot live righteously. It does us absolutely no good to stare in the mirror and berate ourselves for our shortcomings.
Let’s take this one step further. Ephesians 4:29 says, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” The Greek word used for “unwholesome” can also be translated to “foul” or “abusive”. Stop for a minute. What if you found out that this verse also applies to yourself? What if you only spoke to yourself in a way that is helpful for building you up according to your needs? In a way that is not foul or abusive? When we see commands in Scripture to respect, value, and care for the members of the body, that includes you. You are a member of the body. You are a member of a chosen people. You are a part of a royal priesthood. You are citizen of a holy nation. You are God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light. (1 Peter 2:9).
Here’s my challenge to you: take all of your insecurities, fears, failings, and shortcomings. Write them down. Give yourself the time to come up with everything you can think of. You may have a long list. I know I will. When you’re done, pray over that list. Repent where you need to, and ask God to heal your heart, which He delights to do. After you’ve prayed, destroy it. Actively destroy that list. Rip it up, burn it, whatever feels best to you. Then, make a new list. Write out the things you like about yourself. Write out the gifts and abilities you know you have, and any others people have remarked on. Ask your friends and family for their thoughts if you get stuck. Again, give yourself the time to come up with everything you can. When you’re finished, pray over this list. Praise God with thanksgiving! He has made you wonderfully, with gifts and skills and beauty that He hand-selected for you. Thank Him for those things, and pray that He will teach you to use them for His glory.
Friend, I pray that we all do a little internal spring cleaning this week. I hope that this process will bring us closer to the feet of our loving Father, and that we feel lighter, brighter, and bolder for it.
Stay tuned for Part II!