Right now, if you peeked into our two-stall garage, you wouldn’t find a car, but it is filled none-the-less. Some things belong in the garage, like the climbing wall Bryan and Titus built along the west side. Of course, it has taken up more room than I initially thought it would as they have added accessories: a couple of benches to give them a place to rest and an old electric fireplace to keep them from freezing; thanks to our wonderful South Dakota winters. It’s a pretty fun set-up and I’m happy for them.
There is also a wall that predominately holds our paddle boards and some of Bryan’s tools, all of which I wouldn’t want in the house, so I am thankful there is a place for them. Then, we have things like an extra fridge and freezer, racks for storing canned goods and miscellaneous items, as well as a rack for shoes. We have clothes bins, too, that end cap some of the walls. When we cleaned the garage out in August and brought order from the chaos, I breathed a huge sigh of satisfaction at a job well done and promised myself that I would do everything in my power to keep it in order. A place for everything and everything in its place, right?
I’m guessing you can see where I am going. My garage looks far different today than it did back in August. We decided to get new dining room chairs and the discarded ones have now been piled up for the last three months, waiting to go to the dump. The bins that were so nicely stacked are now haphazardly scattered…a clear indication that I was searching for a random jacket or holiday decoration that seemed to be missing. The shoes and boots, though they belong on the rack, are strewn about the garage just waiting for us to trip on them each time we make our way in or out of the house. Random items that once had a place can be found everywhere but where they belong. It is not what I promised myself…and each time I walk out there, I can grow discouraged.
Sometimes my life is a bit like my garage. I put spiritual disciplines in place, bringing some helpful order to the chaos that can so easily creep into my heart and my life. And, at least for a while, I feel thankful satisfaction at the progress that is being made and at the “view” I see when I take time to consider the hours that make up my days. There is a rhythm and routine that helps feed both my body and soul, and I convince myself that I will never go back. This is my new normal. This is my new routine.
But then I get comfortable. I think more of myself than I ought and believe that the disciplines of the Christian life can be mastered and, in some ways, put on a shelf much like a trophy from my high school days. I stop “striving with all His strength that works powerfully in me” (Col. 1:29) and I start living on past accomplishments and disciplines. And the order I pursued begins to give way to small messes: I have to “catch up” on my daily Bible reading because I have sat at my computer screen instead of at the feet of Jesus. My repentance has been generic instead of specific, making me more prone to repeat the same sins over and over again because I didn’t truly repent of them at all. My prayers of dependence are at the end of the day when my mind is fogged with sleep, instead of throughout the day as I fight the flesh and seek to walk wisely. And where my spiritual life goes, my body of flesh is quick to follow. Exercise takes a back seat, food becomes a stronghold as I give in to my many cravings, and the routines that help keep order and cleanliness in my home give way to sporadic bursts of activity instead of daily, faithful care.
Sometime my life is a bit like my garage. Where there was once order, chaos begins to reign. And it doesn’t happen in a night…it happens slowly…one “misplaced shoe” at a time. Maybe you can relate?
The solution is simple. But simple does not necessarily mean easy. It requires the work of the Spirit to infuse our thoughts and, as a result, our actions, with His fruit. Of course, that can only come when we have first taken time to consider our ways. We must begin by taking an honest look at our lives so we can “lay aside every hinderance and the sin that so easily ensures us” (Hebrews 12:1). We have to repent before our holy, good God. We must take our thoughts captive and put off those things for which Christ died…or those things that just simply hinder our hearts from being whole-heartedly devoted to Jesus. Only then, as we cling in repentance and dependence to our Lord, can we begin to walk by the Spirit and not satisfy the desires of the flesh. It’s mind-blowing to think that the God who spoke the world into existence, who moves king’s hearts whichever way He wills, lives INSIDE of us. And His power is actually PERFECTED in our weaknesses!!! Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift! (2 Corinthians 9:15)
We don’t have to come to God with a life that is in perfect order, faithfully fulfilling all of the spiritual disciplines that we long to achieve. We can come to Him in our weakness…clinging to His all-sufficient power and goodness, hiding ourselves in the shadow of His wings, and then going forth in the strength that He supplies as He enables us to eat, drink and do all for the glory of His name and our own good. We can rest even as we work, and we can trust that, “He who started a good work in (us) will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6).
Sometimes my life is a bit like my garage, but instead of looking around in discouragement or closing the door in hopes that ignorance really is “bliss”, it can be a great reminder to my own heart that the only way to be “steadfast and immovable” is by living a life that constantly cries out to the Lord, “Make my steps steady through your promise; don’t let any sin dominate me” (Psalm 119:133). This side of heaven, my life, just like my garage, will always be a work in progress. But as I continually seek the Lord’s presence (I Chron. 16:11), I can take great joy in knowing that, day in and day out, He will strengthen me, help me, and uphold me with His righteous right hand! (Isaiah 41:10)