Tuesday, October 28, 2008
Time for a Change
It was Sunday afternoon, and the kids and I were getting ready to go to my mom’s house for our annual pumpkin carving with their cousins. I sent Boo and JJ upstairs with specific instructions to change out of their dresses into play clothes that they could get sticky with pumpkin goo.
I should have known better.
JJ’s ensemble of choice was eclectic, to put it nicely. I have to hand it to her, though. Technically, her outfit matched. She even pointed out that a pink stripe on her tank top blended with a pink flower on her shorts. Okay, she got me there. And I guess technically a khaki sun hat matches everything, right?
But it was fifty degrees outside—hardly tank-top-and-shorts weather.
Now, to JJ’s credit, Old Man Winter takes his time moseying down to Texas. While folks in other regions of the country have been shoveling snow out of their driveways for weeks, down here in Fort Worth, we’ve been lounging on our back porches on perfect 75-degree evenings. So it’s understandable that JJ would assume her summer outfit would befit late October. (After all, there have been years when we’ve opened Christmas presents in our shorts!) But we finally had a cold snap that seemed like it would last awhile. (Side note: my husband, who is from northwest Arkansas, and I disagree on the definition of cold. In Texas, the official definition is “anything less than sixty degrees.”)
I sent JJ back upstairs to change into long sleeves and jeans. And then, on second thought, I went upstairs to supervise.
Walking into JJ’s room, I realized why she’d had such a hard time selecting an appropriate outfit. There were piles of clothes everywhere!
Alas, it was that time of year again—time to change out the seasons and sizes of clothes. And I was woefully behind in getting the kids’ closets organized. To be honest, it’s something I dread. Don’t get me wrong: I love the feeling of having an organized closet. I just don’t like the process of getting there.
But JJ’s closet was desperately crying out for help. Most of the summer clothes hanging in her closet were a size too small and needed to be put aside, the winter clothes from last year had to be sorted through to find things that still fit, and I needed to go through the storage bin of hand-me-downs from Boo to find winter clothes for JJ this year. Oh, and I needed to mow through JJ’s shoes too. And belts. Oh, and socks—JJ’s socks were getting too small, so I needed to change those out too. Sigh.
It was time for a change.
So I decided to take off work Monday, and I spent the day sorting through piles of clothes and changing out all three kids’ closets. It was a painstaking process—each item in their closets had to be taken down and examined to determine whether it should remain. Some summer clothes could be set aside for next summer; others were too small and needed to be put away. Then I went through the bins of next-size-up clothes that had been handed down from older siblings or given to us by friends over the years. What would fit? What would be appropriate for chilly weather? Which outfits were outdated? What could we pass on to other kids? And then the process began again with shoes. And belts. And socks. And . . .
You get the picture.
It took me almost an entire day to sort through all of their closets, and I have to admit, I’m still not entirely done. But I’m getting closer to having those organized closets I love. I know exactly what they’re supposed to look like—I just have a bit more work to get there.
The process reminds me a bit of what’s it’s like to clean out the “closets” of our life before God. Let’s face it: we all have things hanging around in our lives that needed to be sorted through.
Some things are flat-out sins, things that dishonor God and miss the mark of His holiness. Those need to be confessed and tossed out. First John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” There are things in your life that you know, beyond a doubt, should not stay. So get rid of them! Don’t take time to examine them, lingering over the memories you had wearing them—toss them out! They’re taking up space in your life that you need to fill with God’s righteousness and love.
Some things are outdated and need to be put aside. Are there spiritual practices you’re still clinging to, simply because “you’ve always done it that way”? Though our lives can be enriched by tradition (cue Tevye from Fiddler on the Roof here), there are some traditions that clutter our hearts and prevent us from experiencing new life in Jesus. Fittingly, our Lord described this with a parable about—you guessed it!—clothes: “No one tears a patch from a new garment and sews it on an old one. If he does, he will have torn the new garment, and the patch from the new will not match the old” (Luke 5:36). Are you clinging to any old traditions that are keeping you from a fresh, genuine encounter with Jesus? Set them aside today.
Some things in our lives are a size too small and no longer fit. Are you stuck in the same spiritual routine that you’ve been doing for years? Maybe you attend church on Sunday morning but haven’t made room for your faith in your day-to-day life. Or maybe you’ve been doing the same kinds of devotionals, or praying the same generic “God bless the missionaries” prayers, for several years. Just like every infant experiences physical growth, every Christian goes through a process of spiritual growth. Perhaps it’s time to take a closer look at your spiritual life. In what ways are you closer to God this season than last season? If you’ve been following Christ for several years but are still wearing toddler clothes in your spiritual life, it’s time to “grow up in your salvation” and “become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ” (1 Peter 2:2; Ephesians 4:13). Pass on your toddler clothes by mentoring a younger believer, and press on toward spiritual maturity by “being renewed inwardly day by day” (2 Corinthians 4:16).
As the seasons change and we begin the often-dreaded process of clearing out the clutter, let’s take hope in the fact that someday, we will no longer have to keep purging our lives of sin, old traditions, and immaturity. Like the perfectly organized closets I’ve envisioned for my children, God has an infinitely greater, perfect plan for all of His children. The Bible assures us that one day, our earthly, perishable bodies will be “clothed with the imperishable” (1 Corinthians 15:54). We will finally toss out the despair of this life and put on “a garment of praise” (Isaiah 61:3). And then—hallelujah!—we will be arrayed as the bride of Christ, “in fine linen, white and clean,” and we will dwell forever in the new heaven and earth prepared for us by our faithful, good, and loving God (Revelation 19:14; 21:1–5; Psalm 102:25–27).
And that, my friends, is change you can believe in.