Cleaning Out Closets

I once asked a teacher what her plans were for spring break.  She mentioned a number of things: grade notebooks, sleep in late, clean out closets.  It was the last item that caught my attention.  Who wants to spend their spring break cleaning out closets?  So often the things that need cleaning out of my closets are things I want to forget about.  Clothes that I can’t wear anymore, clothes that I shouldn’t wear anymore, old pictures, expired cell phones, forgotten periodicals that I was going to read, pictures that I was going to frame and a host of other things that I really don’t want to think about, much less bother with.  It all needs to go, but who really wants to take the time and energy to do all of that?  Who wants to face those decisions of what should go and what should stay?  Cleaning out closets is not my idea of a fun spring break.

Doesn’t that well illustrate our spiritual lives?  We all have spiritual closets that need cleaning out, but who really wants to take the time and the mental anguish to deal with it.

What about those hidden sins we constantly struggle with, but don’t really do anything about?  Instead of removing the temptation or removing ourselves from the tempting environment we sear our conscience and stuff the guilt back into the closet so we don’t have to deal with it.  It’s still there, cluttering up our relationship with God.  Isn’t it time to clean that out?  Isn’t it time to remove and dispose once and for all that temptation that gloats its constant victory over our lives?

The problem with closet cleaning is we often find it hard to throw some things out.  Haven’t you ever said, “I don’t know if I want to throw that out, I might need it again one day.”?  So back it goes with two or three other “someday” needed items making a real purge impossible.  In such spiritual cases we lack commitment.  We keep the “old man” tucked away in the closet just in case “Christianity” doesn’t work out for us.  If Christ is going to fit into our lives then all of the old man has to go (Eph. 4:17-32).

What about those items that we keep meaning to do something with but never get around to it?  What about that person that could use your word of encouragement, but you just never got around to it or the elderly shut-in that doesn’t get to get out much, but would be so delighted and uplifted by your presence?  What about the friend or neighbor that needs to know about the gospel, but doesn’t really even know that you are a child of God?  We need to pull these folks out of the closet and do what God says must be done with them.

What about the prayers that we know we need to pray, but don’t want to take the time or feel too ashamed to lay them out before ourselves and God?  I don’t think the Lord had this in mind when He instructed us to go to our closets and pray (Matt. 6:6), but there are a lot of things I have shoved in the back of my spiritual closet that I really need to talk to Him about.

The real problem with closet cleaning is that the longer and deeper that you keep digging, the more you realize how long things have been neglected and left undone.  Like the family Bible study you had been meaning to initiate, the thank you card you meant to write, the thankful prayer you left unsaid.  After a while you find yourself up to your elbows in a spiritual mess.  So what do you do?  You close the closet and walk away and save it for another day.  The problem is, it’s all still there and what is even more dangerous is that you will probably just keep filling it up by cracking the door and shoving something else in.  Then one day you will open the door to throw something else in and it all comes crashing down on you at once.  If a good spiritual closet cleaning doesn’t happen you may one day find yourself buried under an avalanche of spiritual destruction.

Or you could take care of that spiritual closet clutter right now.  Toss out the old man, start being a doer and not just a hearer (James 1:22-25), and let God vacuum out the guilt of old sin with His forgiveness.  There may be some of us who need help with our closets.  That is what brothers and sisters in Christ are for.  Sometimes we have to show someone else our closet, no matter how bad it looks, so they can help us clean it out.  The objective friend can often purge much better than we can do it ourselves. 

Once you get it all cleaned out, then fill that closet of your heart with Christ, so when some other piece of spiritual clutter comes along you have to deal with it right then, because there will be no room to store it.

So what are you doing this spring break?  I’ll tell you what I’m doing.  I am going to turn all those “you”s and “we”s to “I”s and “me”s and go clean out my spiritual closet.

Norm Webb, Jr.