It was Friday. The week's assignments should have been completed. I grabbed my coat and decided not to look at the mess that still shouted from my desk. As I drove home, I was taunted by two cups rolling around on the floorboard of my car, reminding me at every stop that they were left unattended. I stepped into the house, grateful for the hope of a weekend and stopped in my tracks. The dining room table, the place of hospitality, friendship, great food and great conversations, was overrun with piles--piles screaming they were left unattended. I wanted to scream, run away, blame someone else, even cry. I did none of those things. Ironically, I went to the table and piled my computer, my purse, my gloves and my keys on top of an already existing pile, and walked away. The weight of the "unattended" threatened my weekend forecast. The irritation I felt turned quickly to apathy and resignation. What should have been a warning sign only provoked weariness in my heart.
I've learned over time that when things are out of order in the physical realm of my life, they are probably out of order in the internal realm of my life. External chaos is a warning sign to look inward. What is left unattended in my heart? Has clutter captured my joy? Is my spirit weighed down with worry? Have I left relationships hanging? Have my days been overrun with busyness so that the rhythm of my heart is out of sync with God's? Has stuff mattered more than people? Has hope been replaced with frustration? Has peace been replaced with irritation? Has rest been overcome by the isolation of busyness?
I had a few choices when I walked away from my dining room table that day. I could continue to ignore the signs of the clutter in my life. That choice leads to more and more clutter, more and more apathy and resignation. I could try to hand someone else the responsibility to clean up the clutter in my life. That choice may work for a moment, but it infringes on relationships, and it only cleans the surface. I could complain loudly about how overworked and stressed my life is and excuse the clutter. That choice only requires others to tolerate my mess. Or, I can do what I did the day I walked away from the dining room table.
Heading up the stairs to my bedroom, I spied my favorite chair. It's my favorite chair because I often sit quietly there to meet with God. I admit, I had to pull some things off the chair to sit down--an indicator that too much time had passed since I'd been here. I sat quietly and asked God to attend to my heart. What clutter is piled up that needs my attention? What is stealing my joy? What worries me? Have I ignored relationship issues? Have I replaced service with busyness? Has stuff overrun people? What frustrates me, crushing hope? What irritates me, breeding discontent? When was the last time I truly rested, quietly and safely before the Lord, or did I just move into a cave of isolation, hiding from everyone--God and people?
I needed to do some tending that day, but not to my desk or to my car, or even to my dining room table. I needed to tend to my heart. It is there that the clutter starts, and it's there that the clean-up process begins. When I allow God to clean up my heart, weight begins to lift. Hope begins to speak. Joy brings a smile. Contentment rejuvenates my spirit. Life takes on perspective. Energy begins to return.
When I look at my desk, the car, and the dining room table, I often ask, "how did this happen?" It happens little by little. That's how my heart gets cluttered--little by little. I forget how valuable it is to keep my heart clean and attended to before God, and little by little, the piles begin to form.
As I made my way to the dining room table, I spoke to God with every pile I picked up and tended to....
Thank you Lord, that you are patient. I forget so often how consistently you attend to me. Draw me close to you in the busyness and clutter of my life. Let the path become clearer and clearer. Make me aware of the piles as they begin to form so that I can be uncluttered before you, fully embraced in your presence and your love.
Shelley Lopez, Executive Director
Shelley has been a member of the Springfield community for 29 years. As she lives and works and worships in the city, she uses the metaphor of an old Victorian house restoration to keep her focused on the work she is called to do. Inspired by the words of the prophet Isaiah, she pours herself into "restoring old ruins, rebuilding and renovating, making the community livable again" (Is. 58:12 MSG)