“I was looking at your church website and found a picture of your office,” a relative mentioned when my wife and I were visiting.
“Oh really,” I answered, wondering why she would be so interested?
“We’ve never had a chance to visit your church so I decided to check it out online. Your sanctuary is beautiful and the family life center is interesting but” – she paused for moment, smiled and continued, “have you seen the picture of your office?”
“Actually, I haven’t. Why do you ask?” Now, I was really curious. What was her point?
“I made a copy for you. Maybe you should take a peek.” She said with a mischievous grin as she proudly displayed a picture of what could only be described as – ground zero of a nuclear blast.
Preserved in glossy 8 by 11 Technicolor was my office in all it’s (gulp) glory? Maybe a better word would be “extreme clutter” or “disaster area” or “this site should be condemned?” Papers were strewn all over my desk. You could hardly see my computer for the mess. A lamp shade was tilted at a 45 degree angle. In the background were pictures, books and old mementos scattered all about.
I was embarrassed, ashamed and yes humiliated. I knew something drastic needed to be done. But deep down I knew it wouldn’t be right to eliminate my entire family? Would it? (Okay Larry, get serious.) There was no way around it. Something needed to be done about my office.
Clutter often involves more than just an office or a house. Chuck Swindoll in his book, “So, You Want to Be Like Christ?” writes a chapter on “Simplicity, Uncluttering our Minds.” With tongue planted firmly in cheek, Swindoll shares five steps toward achieving a cluttered mind. As I read each statement, I was forced to declare myself: Guilty! Read his list and see where you stand:
1. Say yes every time someone asks you to do something.
2. Don’t plan any time for leisure and rejuvenation.
3. Don’t be satisfied with your accomplishments – keep moving.
4. Max out your credit cards beyond what you can repay.
5. Acquire all the latest technology so you can simplify your life.
Guilty! In addition to having a cluttered office, I say yes far too often. Guilty! I plan very little time for leisure and rejuvenation. Guilty! I am seldom satisfied with my accomplishments. I do keep moving. Guilty! I’ve taken on too much debt this year. Guilty! I’ve often acquired the latest technology hoping for a simpler life only to find myself maintaining yet another gadget. Where does it all end? I confess! I am also guilty of a cluttered mind and a cluttered life. In fact, every component of my life is cluttered. (Sigh)
Max Lucado wrote in “Cure for the Common Life:” We are a nation that believes in having it all. In 1950 American families owned one car and saved for a second. In 2000 nearly 1 in 5 families owned three cars or more. Americans shell out more for garbage bags than 90 of the world’s 210 countries spend for everything. In 1900 the average person living in the US wanted 72 different things and considered 18 of them essential. Today the average person wants 500 things and considers over 100 of them essential.”
Our recent financial crisis so painfully reminds us: prosperity carries a hefty price tag. Most of us feel the stress of a hectic, cluttered lifestyle.
Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians: “I am jealous for you with the jealousy of God himself. For I promised you as a pure bride to one husband, Christ. But I fear that somehow you will be led away from your pure and simple devotion to Christ, just as Eve was deceived by the serpent. You seem to believe whatever anyone tells you…” (11:2-3) When our lives are cluttered we can more easily be led astray.
Ella Wheeler Wilcox wrote a beautiful poem that begins: “One ship drives east and another drives west with the selfsame winds that blow: ‘Tis the set of the sails and not the gales, which tells us the way to go.”
Two ships driven by the wind, yet one stays on course. Are you sailing where you desire or caught in the gales of a cluttered lifestyle? The answer is found in the word: simplify. We must learn to simplify our lives. The reward is a life less complicated, not more. You will have more time, not less. And the fruit is the opportunity to enjoy a long-lasting, satisfying, rewarding, intimate relationship with almighty God.
Next: “I want to get rid of the clutter in my office and my life — but how?”