“Spring shows what God can do with a drab and dirty world.” Virgil A. Kraft
“And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable and perfect will of God.” Romans 12:2
This week, the smell of spring flooded my senses as I took a walk in my neighborhood. It was the smell of the rich brown earth awakening while new growth tried desperately to peek through. Not only could I smell spring, but I could see small buds appearing on bushes, chirping birds flying in trees and daffodils peeping through the dirt. While the sun was shining down, I instantly felt a bounce in my step, soaking in the signs of spring, breathing in the fragrant air.
Spring always delights me. I love to see the world awaken from winter, the drab gray of earth’s landscape replaced with succulent green verdure. I love to see tulips, daffodils and hyacinths blanket yards, nodding their heads to the sun. I am enchanted with the music of the birds as they sing to each other, building nests and starting families.
As the earth is awakening from its slumber, I feel a need to declutter my home. I take a long, hard look at all my stuff and attempt evaluate whether it is something I need or something I love. Some of this stuff might be books that I read years ago, but no longer capture my interest. Other items might be kitchen gadgets that have remained untouched for the last year, crowding my cupboards and drawers. Still other items might be beloved objects that are broken. They sit in a corner of a closet, with me secretly wishing they were still whole and beautiful. Whatever the reasons, I make decisions resulting in parting with the items that are no longer beautiful or useful. The items then find a new home, leaving my house forever. At the end of the process I feel a weight has been lifted and a burden gone.
It seems so easy to declutter my home, but much more difficult to declutter my mind of habits and ways of thinking that take up space, hindering me in my walk with God. These thoughts and habits race through my mind, crowding out thoughts that can bring me new life. They can halt creativity or be a doorway for bitterness to develop. Some of these thoughts can be deeply rooted patterns of thinking that don’t reflect God’s word and principles, keeping me from reaching my potential.
This decluttering of the mind might seem a little philosophical to you, but let me make it a little more practical with you by sharing with you some of the examples that I have been wrestling with in my own mind. One of the thoughts that has plagued me since first grade is that I am not an artistic person. My art teacher, an old-school thinker, had definite ideas of what colors things should be. I have always been drawn to vivid colors, hoping to brighten my world by adding splashes of color to objects like tree bark and houses. She persistently critiqued my choice of colors and chided me on my techniques. I felt defeated in art, never feeling like my art work measured up. I have carried this with me into adulthood, forcing me to rely on others to help me carry out my creative vision for projects such as decorating my Sunday school room.
This past Christmas, I shared with my husband my desire to attempt drawing again. He believed in me and bought me artist quality colored pencils and a sketch book. Weekly, I have tried to spend time working on my skills, creating little pieces of art. I am by no means saying that I have uncovered a talent that matches Michelangelo. I would not even put myself in the same category of some of my dear friends. Yet, I have found sketching to be relaxing and fulfilling. I even managed to sketch some silhouettes for my Sunday school class. Granted, my cows looked a little more like sheep, but overall, the items were better than just recognizable.
Another area cluttering my mind is more personal and relates to my self-image. I have lost a considerable amount of weight, equal to a whole person. Yet, for decades, I was the biggest person in the room, taking up the most space, trying to match the space with a big personality. Although I have lost a lot of weight, I still perceive myself as the morbidly obese woman of a year and half ago. I still find myself gravitating toward the plus-size clothing sections in stores, dismayed when the items are too big on me and even more reluctant to try on large or even extra-large. I look in the mirror and don’t see the new me because I’m still burdened by this imaginary weight that no longer exists. This imaginary weight represents negative messages I received from stepfather, who remarked how the ground shook when I walked into the room, or who compared me to Miss Piggy and followed it with pig sounds. These messages clung to the fat that enclosed my body. As I shed the fat, I need to shed those thoughts with scriptures from the Bible that remind me that I am fearfully and wonderfully made. I need to memorize verses that remind me that even at my heaviest, God saw me as worthwhile, a person of value.
Every spring, my mother-in-law would assign Terry the dreaded chore of cleaning the thatch in the yard. Terry would spend hours raking the dead grass into piles and bagging it up. The clearing of the thatch seemed pointless to a ten-year-old boy, but his mom knew that removing the thatch would allow fresh green grass to carpet the yard. In Romans 12:2, Paul tells us, “be not conformed to this world, but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” The Greek word “anakainosis”, translated as “renewing”, can also be translated as “renovation” or “a complete change for the better”. I need to rake up the thatch in my mind, to make room for thoughts that validate God’s presence in my life.
Recently, Terry bought me a beautiful journal, decorated with florals and the word “Thrive” on the cover. I have decided to use this journal for both goal-setting and reflections on cleaning up the clutter in my mind. When I find myself burdened with thoughts that don’t reflect God’s word, I am going to write down what the proper perspective should be, and fill the page with corresponding scriptures and prayers to help me renew my mind. Just like getting rid of items in my house that are no longer useful or beautiful, I need to get rid of thoughts that are not helping grow in God. In essence, I need to focus on Godly thoughts that help me “Thrive”!