Clutter City

“Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer,” said the Apostle John, “and you know that no murderer has eternal life in him” (1 John 3:15). Perhaps as John wrote that, he was remembering the words of Jesus Himself: “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment” (Mt. 5:21-22). Some manuscripts render that last phrase as “…anyone who is angry with his brother without cause,” which makes one suspect a copyist touched it up to soothe his own conscience. After all, who, feeling the pull of anger, doesn’t manage to convince himself he has a right to it?

Most of us, of course, also have our remorseful moments of “Why did I make such a big deal over such a petty thing?” Weariness is a surprisingly frequent instigator. When you’ve been slaving all day on an exhausting task and see the end finally in sight, then someone notes a piece you overlooked or interrupts to ask your help with something else, the impulse to blow sky-high surges up. This can be true even if the other party isn’t standing there expecting quick action. I have entertained some furiously angry thoughts toward more than one Christian sister or brother whose “hey, check out this article” e-mail had the bad manners to arrive when I was fighting a seemingly bottomless To Read pile.

Those of us who are too eager-to-please for our own good are particularly vulnerable. Someone has written a book called When I Say No, I Feel Guilty, which is an apt description of the way many Christians approach their service to others. Is the ministry doomed if I don’t volunteer? Am I backsliding if I forget to pray for every need in the church bulletin? Will my friend be crushed if I don’t have time to help her plan her party? Too much of that can get you into the habit of feeling obligated to absolutely everyone, until you’re even reading your junk mail in full. And bitterly resenting the “time thieves” who led you into temptation by sending it.

A sure path to becoming stressed, depressed, and hard-pressed is to get angry with the world for not limiting its input to spare you the trouble of prioritizing your time. And a sure path to developing such a twisted perspective is to forget that paying attention to God comes first and not last on the priority list–or to expect Him to work on a basis of “you give Me exactly x number of minutes every morning and I’ll make everything else easy for you.” For some of us, the absolute hardest part of achieving God’s peace is accepting–really accepting–that life has its uncertainties and surprises, that no one can have or do everything, that sometimes we just have to give up and let go. Let go and let God use His infallible judgment to slowly bring our perspective and priorities into focus.

And let Him sweep the emotional clutter from our souls.

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1 Comment

  1. Lots of writers could benefit from reading this post because most of us have more to do than can possibly be done.


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