How to Declutter Your Soul This Year

Several times over the past few years, my wife and I have considered selling our house, and so we have engaged a real estate agent to help us in that process. One of the things that happens is that the agent walks through your house with you and points out all of the things that need to be removed in order to show the house.  We accumulate a lot of clutter in our houses over the years.  We have a lot of furniture in the rooms and a lot of books on the shelves, and we are blind to how much stuff is crammed into this small space.  Our agent would say, “Remove a third of those books, the desk and the dresser, and have nothing sitting around.”  Honestly, that can be a challenge.  We have a lot of clutter in our lives that we’re blind to unless someone is willing to take us on that journey.  The same is true spiritually.

We accumulate a lot of spiritual clutter in our hearts too. As we go through life, people and things and experiences stick to us spiritually, and they’re stored in our hearts as we continue on down the road.  They take up spiritual space in our lives, sipping emotional energy from our limited supply, and hindering us from devoting ourselves fully to important things.  We function like an operating system that is so full of adware and so on that it cannot run other programs properly.  But the most troubling thing is that we are largely blind to their presence.  We cannot see how much the clutter rules over us from the dark corners of our opaque hearts.

At the beginning of His ministry, Jesus began by announcing the arrival of a new kingdom, the kingdom of heaven. As Jesus would explain, the kingdom of heaven is first and foremost a kingdom of the heart.  It grows from the inside out, instead of being imposed from the outside in.  It overcomes slowly and organically as our eyes are opened and hearts are liberated from the clutter that has been enslaving us.  Jesus wants to take you on a tour of your heart and show you all the spiritual clutter.  He wants to create a spiritual space there for God to fill with His grace.  Jesus calls this spiritual space “blessed.”  Blessedness is spiritual space.

1) “Blessed are the poor in spirit.”

It is no surprise that Jesus tackles the most virulent and pervasive one first. We have many labels for it—money, power, control—but whatever you call it, it easily has the greatest spiritual footprint in our lives and in our hearts.  At the most basic level, it is a desire for security that we crave.  Security is the thing that preoccupies us more than anything else.  It is the promise that snares our attention, the illusion that wins elections, the hope that alleviates fears.  The drive for material goods is really just an attempt to buffer ourselves against neediness.  It is about security.  A desire for security easily overrides other priorities in our lives, and encumbers our souls with massive clutter and baggage that we just can’t see in ourselves.

Interestingly, you can be poor in spirit and not be poor. You can be poor and not be poor in spirit.  The difference is not the amount of your possessions, but rather, the condition of your heart.  Do you seek to buffer yourself against reliance?  If so, then those possessions have a large spiritual footprint in your heart, regardless of how large or small the stockpile might be.  Jesus said that it is harder for a “rich man” to enter the kingdom of heaven than for a camel to go through the eye of a needle.  Why?  Because the kingdom of heaven requires spiritual space.  And so blessedness comes when that desire for security is surrendered to God.

2) “Blessed are those who mourn.”

Mourning signifies an absence in your heart, a spiritual space that has been suddenly and dramatically vacated against your will. It means that someone or something has been taken away from you, and it is someone or something that you really treasured, maybe more than anything in life.  Maybe it was a career.  Maybe it was a spouse or a relationship.  Maybe it was a dream of future happiness.  Now there is just a tremendous empty space inside.  A spiritual space can feel terrifying and vacuous when it has been suddenly vacated.  It can feel like a cataclysmic emptiness when a person is spiritually ripped away.  That is mourning.

However, Jesus is not calling our mourning tragic, hopeless or meaningless, but rather, blessed. How can that possibly be?  How can sorrow and loss be anything but wrong?  Because spiritual space has been liberated in your heart, as painful as that can be, for it to be filled with something else.  Relationships occupy a gigantic spiritual space in our lives.  Sometimes, we treasure people in a way that is totally out of balance, and that leaves no room or spiritual energy for anyone else.  When that is the case, Jesus will need to take you on a tour of your life.  God has a way of tearing people away in order to open up spiritual space inside for His grace.  While it may be painful or terrifying, mourning also results in blessedness.

3) “Blessed are the meek.”

We don’t use the word “meek” very often anymore, and when we do, we tend to use it interchangeably with the word “humility.” However, I don’t think that they are exactly the same thing.  Humility means not thinking too highly of yourself, but meekness suggests power and status that are set aside and that are not necessarily exercised.  In my opinion, meekness in a person means not pressing one’s power or privilege—not requiring that everyone around acknowledge your resume.  That is meekness.  My brother has a great saying:  he appreciates people who have more in the back than they put on the shelf.  Meekness is an emptying of oneself and one’s own reputation in the circle of one’s influence.

However, our lives tend to be consumed with building a resume or reputation, and that is the opposite of meekness. We are constantly selling ourselves, whether in a business or on Facebook.  Look at how people market themselves online purely in their personal interactions.  Do you ever post an unflattering photo of yourself on Facebook?  We are geared to serve our reputations, to create our personal brand, to augment our resume.  Unfortunately, that kind of pursuit takes up an incredibly large amount of spiritual space.  It is challenging for the kingdom to take root in our lives when it must compete with our desire for personal recognition.  And so blessedness comes when the drive for approval from others is melted away.

4) “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness.”

There is one very quick way to distinguish someone who is reserving spiritual space in their lives for God, and that is the fact that they hunger and thirst. If you are not spiritually hungry, it is because you have not made spiritual space in your heart for God.  Do you understand?  People are spiritually hungry for a reason.

In the film “Supersize Me,” a filmmaker decides that he will make a documentary about what will happen if he eats at McDonalds every meal for forty days, and the result is that he gets very sick. I will bet you that he wasn’t hungry the entire time, but I’ll bet you that he was never satisfied either.  Food doesn’t equal nourishment.  We gorge ourselves on things all the time, like junk food or entertainment or porn or approval that might fill our bellies but will never satisfy us.  These are attempts to fill a spiritual space in our lives that will never be satisfied in that manner.

Nature hates a vacuum. If you have spiritual space in your life, then you are going to fill it with something.  The question is whether you will fill it yourself with things that will never satisfy, or will you allow God to be the One who fills that vacuum?  Blessedness is leaving spiritual space inside for God to fill with His grace.

If you want to declutter your soul this year, then you are going to need to deal with these four areas in your life—security, relationships, resume and appetites. These areas have the greatest spiritual footprint in our hearts, but we won’t see it unless we are willing to be taken on a tour of our hearts.  I challenge you to let Jesus take you on a journey through your life.  Invite Jesus to show you the things that have been filling you up, yet never satisfying.  It will involve hunger and thirst.  It will involve mourning.  It will involve letting go of security.  But it will also involve being satisfied in a way that nothing in this world will ever satisfy you.

Blessedness is spiritual space.

Daniel Radmacher © 2016

1 Comment

  1. Joe Lombardi · December 30, 2016 Reply

    Dan, what an insightful, thought-provoking post. When I read your two paragraphs on “Blessed are those who mourn,” something resonated deep within myself – perhaps in one of those empty spaces recently “vacated.” Your last two lines in that section restored hope: “God has a way of tearing people away in order to open up spiritual space inside for His grace. While it may be painful or terrifying, mourning also results in blessedness.” Thank-you, sir. I am STILL amazed by His grace.

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