My daughter talked me into listening to a book titled The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning.* It talks about preparing, as you get older, for the time you are no longer around. Specifically, it encourages aging adults to take on the task of cleaning out clutter and down-sizing in order not to burden their heirs with those tasks. I wondered if she was hinting. I know she is passionate about living a more clutter-free life.
Let’s face it, we accumulate a lot of stuff in a lifetime of “three score and ten” or more. Even if we aren’t considering the “art of death cleaning” we typically do heavy cleaning in spring or go through our closets when the seasons (or our waistlines) change.
It’s a good idea to get rid of things you don’t use anymore or clothes that don’t fit and this often gives us an opportunity to donate these to others in need. We should routinely go through and declutter our drawers and desks just for that sake of being more easily able to find the important paperwork we might need.
While the phrase “cleanliness is next to godliness” is not in the Bible, the word of God does have a thing or two to say about cleaning up. In fact, God is all about the cleanup.
The Bible talks about spiritual cleaning. This might be stated in the Bible as seeking “a pure heart” or “a clean heart” or “clean hands” or “pure thoughts” or any other myriad of ways.
James 4:8 [ESV] instructs us to take up the task of cleaning up hands and hearts. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.
Hebrew 10:22 [ESV] tells us how we can have clean hearts: Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. The way to get spiritually clean is through Jesus. The cleanup begins with His sacrifice and cleaning blood.
To clean up a heart, we must begin, like King David in Psalm 51:10 [ESV] by crying, Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. We ask for a cleaned heart when we pray for forgiveness of sin and to be washed by the blood of Jesus.
We are told to clean out our homes from leavened products ahead of the Days of Unleavened Bread [Exodus 12:15] and, more importantly, to clean out the leaven of sin from our lives. 1 Corinthians 5:7-8 [KJV] Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us: Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened [bread] of sincerity and truth.
Spiritual cleanup is an on-going, life-long process. The dirt of sin and the clutter of Satan-lead or human nature-lead thoughts and actions will require constant work until the day we part ways with our mortal bodies.
One of the best ways to facilitate spiritual cleanup, however, is to clean up our schedules - clear out some action items that distract us from spending time with God, Jesus, and the Bible.
This is the lesson of Luke 10:38-42 and especially of Jesus’ instructions to Martha in Luke 10:41-42 [ESV] But the Lord answered her, "Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her."
The Sabbath is, of course, a weekly opportunity to do a little of this clearing out of the cares and concerns of daily life and spend uncluttered time with the Bible, the Father, Jesus and fellow believers. We get to clear our schedules of endless “to do” lists and focus on relationship building, as Mary did.
But, just like our homes need regular deep cleaning in the springtime and our closets, cabinets and drawers need focused decluttering, God knew that our lives would need more than just the Sabbath to really get us clean.
Therefore, He gives us the annual High Days for deeper and more focused cleaning. He bids us to pay special attention to the clutter of sin in our lives three seasons of the year. With the spring Holy Days and Pentecost seasons behind us, we believers are now focused on the upcoming fall festivals.
If you are going away for the Feast of Tabernacles, you’ll be thinking, like me, of streamlining your clothing choices for packing, and planning to stop your mail or newspaper delivery for the week, or maybe scheduling someone to come in and care for your pets or plants.
For me, one of the most important things I will need to clean out is my schedule at work so that my job doesn’t take up my thoughts and time while I am trying to focus more on God. Truthfully, thanks to cell phones, a laptop computer and the Internet, this is often the toughest part for me. I have sometimes spent more time on the job than in church during the Feast of Tabernacles (although not on the Holy Days, of course). But I hear Jesus bidding me to lay those things aside and, in effect, saying to me, "Nancy, Nancy you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Nancy choose the good portion, which will not be taken away from you." Time to declutter my schedule and focus on the “good portion.”
I may not be ready to fully enact the guidelines of The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning, but I have been doing some extreme cleaning out of my closets. Wes and I have given some thought to how and when we might downsize from our 5-bedroom home and three acres of land. More importantly, we are preparing to spend time away from the cluttering daily schedules of our lives in the up-coming fall Holy Day season.
Whether you will actually be able to get away for eight days to some exotic place or you are building a temporary dwelling in your yard or you taking off limited time or you are homebound - however you will celebrate these days - my hope and prayer for you is that you will do some deep cleaning to declutter your schedule in order to enjoy more time with God and Jesus, the Word and fellow believers.
I welcome your thoughts, comments and questions. You can write me at Nancy@DynamicChristianMinistries.org.
* The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning By Margareta Magnusson, published by Simon and Schuster