I read that Queen Isabella of Spain bragged that she had had only two baths in her life — one when she was born, and the other when she married Ferdinand. They gave her a third when she died. That’s about how often the shops seem to get cleaned around here. It’s not that I dislike the chore or that I like a cluttered shop. In fact, it’s quite the contrary. I enjoy putting things in order and a clean shop is a more productive and cheerful place to work. It just seems like there is always something more urgent to do, especially for engineers who find it hard to throw things away.
As a result, I’ve sometimes gone for long periods of letting things pile up and then finally stopping to put stuff away and throw out the junk. I’m in put away-throw away mode now and I’m kind of amazed at some of the stuff that has turned up. For example, yesterday I threw away a maintenance manual I had just discovered. It was a great manual, but the equipment it covered had been gone for at least 15 years, long before I ever got here. You discover these things only if you sort through stacks of papers and three-ring binders.
The picture that I’ve titled “Hall of Shame” is in the generator shop. As you can imagine, not a lot of work happens on these benches. I’ve been putting this off for a while partly because it’s hot and full of mosquitoes, but mostly because there really isn’t any place to put most of this stuff and very little of it can be thrown away. We have no floor space or wall space available for more shelves or hooks. I’ll be facing some hard decisions when I get after this. I did gain some floor space earlier this week when I butchered and sold for scrap two rusted out air conditioners that were taking up space. I even got about $15 for the radio station by selling the scrap!
On the other hand, I’ve been making great strides in the audio shop. Not long ago, I uncovered this desk that I’d almost forgotten was there. Not really, but it was pretty well buried in assorted stuff which now resides on shelves or in the landfill. Yesterday, I finally broke down and got rid of two antique computers. One was a Pentium II (Anyone remember those?) and the other one was even older. I thought I might someday need to use the cases to build new computers, but that hasn’t happened. Now that they are gone, I’ll probably need to build a computer next week.
So why am I telling you all this? Well, for one thing, there have not been many big adventures here lately. And I’m thankful for that. It means we’re on the air and the equipment is working which affords me the time to take care of these things. But the more important reason is what we can accomplish by applying some housecleaning in our souls. You’re probably better at this stuff than I am because I’m quite convicted by the clutter in my life.
I see three kinds of clutter that build up in our lives along with all sorts of dust and debris. One kind of clutter is “mental clutter” — what you could call the cares of this life. There are lots of stresses, lots of plans to make, and lots of hurts to massage. Sometimes we get in a rut and, instead of processing them and moving on, we hang on to them and they block us from following where Jesus wants to lead us. Like a computer program caught in an infinite loop; we can’t seem to move on to the next part of God’s program. To change metaphors, they become like that junk on the benches in the generator shop that’s keeping me from using the benches the way they were meant to be used.
Speaking of the junk on the bench, another kind of clutter is “stuff clutter.” When one of Mildred’s elderly relatives who had been through the Great Depression died many years ago, she had so much stuff that they had to hold the estate sake at the county fairgrounds. We have lots of stuff, simply because we can. We have the room and we have the money. What we usually do not think we have is the time to sort and properly dispose of the stuff, or the willpower to not buy it in the first place. When Mildred and I moved to Florida from Ohio, we moved from a two story house with a basement, a barn, a workshop, and a shed to a single story house with a Florida sized (ie. small) two car garage and no basement, no shed, no barn, no shop, and no permission from the home owners association to build anything like that. I think we had two sales before we moved and another one afterwards. Then, before we moved to Roatan, we had two more sales, gave stuff away, and hauled at least two loads to the dump. We had “stuff issues!” And those issues made it a lot more difficult to follow God’s directions to come work at Radio HRGS here in Roatán. When God says, “Go,” we should be a little more prepared.
The third kind of clutter is what I’ll call “people clutter” since I can’t come up with a better term right now. We sometimes clutter our lives with unhealthy relationships that drain us emotionally and often consume large chunks of time either resolving issues or in activities that are not profitable for anyone involved. The other person might even be leading us into temptation, making it harder for us to flee from sin. Let’s not forget, though, that just because a relationship is difficult does not necessarily make it unprofitable. God may want you in this person’s life to minister to them. It takes discernment to know the difference. Maybe we should evaluate our personal relationships by asking if they are good for our own spiritual growth, the other person’s welfare, or if God is using this relationship in some other way for His glory. If the answer to all three is “no,” it may be time to either refocus the relationship or to move on. Jesus said that if our hand or our eye causes us to sin, that calls for an amputation. He was exaggerating to make a point, but what if it’s a friend who is causing us to sin and will not stop?
Call it de-cluttering, spiritual housekeeping, focus, or something else; if we want to be used by God as much as possible, we need to evaluate our lives from time to time to see what might be keeping us from pursuing and obeying God. I find this highly challenging because I enjoy so many activities. When I read Warren Wiersbe’s story about Dwight Moody, it hit me right on top of the head. While traveling in Ireland back in 1873, D.L. Moody heard British evangelist Henry Varley say: “The world has yet to see what God can do with and for and through and in a man who is fully and wholly consecrated to Him.” Moody couldn’t stop thinking about Varley’s words. “As I crossed the wide Atlantic,” Moody said, “the boards of the deck…were engraved with them, and when I reached Chicago, the very paving stones seemed marked with them.” Moody was so stricken by Varley’s statement that he decided he was involved in too many ministries to be effective and therefore began to concentrate on evangelism.
Several decades ago one of our pastors said something I’ll never forget, but I sometimes need to remind myself of it. He said that, because God wants us to do all things well, if we are not able to find the time to do all things well, we are doing something God does not want us to do. We need to find out what it is and stop doing it. I don’t know about you, but for me, that’s an extreme challenge. In Hebrews 12:1-2 we read:
… let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.