"Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one think I do: forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus" Phil. 3:13-14.
Paul was a neat-nik. He promoted a personal program of year-round continuous spring cleaning. Childish things (1 Cor. ), bitterness, rage, anger, brawling, slander, and malice (Eph. ) were relegated to the trash can regularly. Sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires, greed and idolatry (Col. 3:5) were deemed rubbish and dealt with accordingly.
Paul and other biblical writers weren't promoting self-improvement regimens. Eliminate A, B, and C and your life will be happier, healthier and more productive. That's not the point. If not careful, all of our lives get cluttered with non-essentials. We have homes full of stuff and storage units to house the overflow of yesterday's must haves. Paul and others recognized that hanging onto old junk in our personal lives leaves less room for what is important and vital for life.
In his book, Prayer - Does it Make a Difference? Philip Yancey explores the topic of unworthiness and its impact on our prayer life. Often this type of feeling is rooted in the very things Paul urges us to kick to the curb. To illustrate, Yancey quotes an anonymous fourteenth-century author's book, The Cloud of the Unknowing.
"Before penetrating the cloud of the unknowing above us," he said, "we may need to imagine a 'cloud of forgetting' beneath us. Forget past failures, forget recurring sins, forget feelings of inferiority, and instead open your mind to God, who cannot fill what has not been emptied." (pg 185).
Taking out the trash opens up more space for God to occupy comfortably. We don't want Him to feel restricted, having to wiggle around our old habits, mindsets and lifestyles which reduce the volume He wants to pour into us. God wants us to see and understand from His perspective. He want us to be just like Him. This happens when we make a clean sweep. Out with the old to make room for the new.
Unfortunately, this is harder to do than to talk about. Look around you. How much useless stuff is hanging around your house? You neither need it or use it, but...you can't part with it. In some cases it's broken and beyond repair, but you still won't let it go. Why? What's the problem?
In the same way that pitching out old household items is a measure of identity loss, so is discarding old ways of thinking and behaving. If we get rid of these leftovers, who are we? Empty space can seem scary. This is, however, what faith is all about. We trust God to replace our debris with something very valuable.
How about you? What's cluttering up your life and restricting God from taking a more expansive role. Why are you hanging onto thing which are unnecessary and don't work anymore? Don't you think it's time to finally take out the trash?