This past weekend I got outside for a run for the first time in many months. It was so nice to be outside in God’s creation running along a quiet country road.
I came across a group of Amish as I was running. An Amish man with about 10 children out picking up trash in the field and along the road. I’m sure they were part of the family that owns the farm, and clean up is a part of every Spring for them. They can’t use those fields if it’s full of trash.
It’s amazing to me how many people through bottles, cans and junk out their windows, and litter our neighborhoods, streets and roadways. I guess that’s part of living in this world, if you’re a land owner part of what needs to happen is cleaning up your property, even if the mess was caused by someone else.
It’s like that in our spiritual and emotional lives as well. Sometimes people litter on us emotionally or spiritually. Maybe it’s saying something hurtful, or doing something abusive to us. Maybe it’s leading us away from our relationship with God, or getting distracted by other things. The reality is our lives are often quite messy, some of it we bring on ourselves, and some is thrown out the window by others, and it lands on us.
So how do we clean up and get rid of the litter? Well, let’s learn from this Amish family.
- Acknowledge that you have a mess to clean up – They saw the mess and decided to clean it up. This can be the hardest step because most of us want to bury the mess. The problem is, those buried things keep popping up in our lives. Sometimes it’s buried so deep we need some help uncovering it. Emotional and spiritual hurts that are buried can never heal properly unless they are picked up and thrown out. Pride is often the reason we don’t take this first step.
- Build a team – They knew it would go faster with more help. Life is hard, and it’s even harder when we do it alone. Find some people that care about you, and are willing to walk with you through whatever you need to clean up. This should be a small team and you need to be careful, because there are a lot of people that might mean well, but are not helpful. When adding to this team ask these questions. Does this person want what’s best for me? Does this person have a relationship with God that is growing? Will this person keep things confidential? Will this person lift me up or pull me down? Ask God to help you as you surround yourself with the right people.
- Get Started – They had to pick a day and just start cleaning. At some point we have to start making some changes. We can get great counsel and have some great self-awareness, but if we never make any changes or try something new or different, nothing will change. Sometimes we need to just start picking up the trash and throwing it away. It’s in this process that a lot of the growth and healing will happen. It’s having that difficult conversation, asking for forgiveness, forgiving someone else, reading a book, seeing a counselor and doing the homework. If we just keep doing the same old thing, we just keep getting the same old result.
- Keep God in the center of it all – This is God’s creation, let’s keep it beautiful. Those first three steps are things we can do to start improving our lives, but this step is really the key to lasting life change. The spiritual side of our lives is the most important, and often the most neglected part of our lives. We try to fix all the junk and yet still feel empty and broken. When we plug into God He transforms, heals, buildings, shapes, restores and renews us. When we bring God into every part of our lives and fully surrender it all to Him it leads to freedom, fulfillment and wholeness. When we trust God completely, He is faithful and brings the needed transformation in our lives. He is God and we are not.
- Once you’ve picked up the trash, choose to throw it away – Once they picked up all the trash it went to the dumpster. We can actually get comfortable with our junk. Throwing something away can be hard, especially if we’ve been carrying it for years. That’s why having God involved helps so much. The more we trust God the less we rely the junk we’ve held onto, making it easier to pitch it in the trash and not pick it up again.
- Stick with it – I’m sure they have to do this once or twice a year. There will be more trash thrown at us, and we need to keep cleaning up every year. If our spiritual lives are thriving, most of the time there is less clean up to do. When we are healthy spiritually and emotionally we have better boundaries in our lives and are much more resilient when things go wrong or get hard.
It’s so helpful to remember that God is for us and He is in us. That combination is amazing, and it leads directly to less trash to pick up. So focus on God and build that level of trust and closeness to Him. Doing that will lead to breakthroughs in other areas of our lives.
If you are ready to start cleaning up, a good place to start is a growing, thriving local church. Find a place where you can connect with God, and other people. Step out of your comfort zone and take some risks to grow spiritually, that’s the best way to clean up the junk and change your life.