My family thinks I’m a neat freak. I think I’m just orderly. (Well, maybe it is a little over the top to look forward to a day off so I can clean out my closet.)

But in all seriousness, whatever your personality type or personal level of clutter comfort, disorganization and excess clutter will waste your time and focus. And worse, it is the enemy of availability.

Lives burdened with clutter are often not free to respond to the promptings of the Holy Spirit or to the needs of those they serve.

Run lean

One of the passages I like to remember at the start of a new year is Hebrews 12:1–2.

Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.

The beginning of a year feels like a fresh start in the race God has set before me. It motivates me to re-pledge to give my all to running my race.

Living with clutter, however, is like trying to run my marathon in heavy boots. Whether the clutter be external (disorganized files, messy desk, piled closet) or internal (worry, distraction, strained relationships), it weighs on my mind and spirit.

Decluttering then is really about learning to run lean. It’s about shedding the weights to run an effective race.

January is a great time of year to declutter—to streamline for ministry. Over the next few weeks, I plan to post four blogs on busting the clutter out of our lives…beginning now with part 1:

Start with the heart

You might be surprised with where I believe clutter busting begins—the heart. More specifically, with forgiveness.

Declutter your heart through forgiveness.

Just as sure as a heart attack will stop a marathon runner, so bitterness will be the ruin of a Christian leader. This is why Scripture explicitly forbids bitterness (and all its cousins):

Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice:—Ephesians 4:31

Bitterness is like plaque constricting the spiritual arteries. It prevents God’s grace from freely flowing to and from the heart. (Bitterness will take a toll on your physical health as well.)

Before you shred a paper or discard a trinket in your quest to declutter, I suggest that you banish bitterness and all its manifestations. You may have a clean desk, a state-of-the-art organizational system, and neatly organized files. But what does that matter if your soul is burdened with bitterness?

Invoke a “no tolerance” policy

A spiritual leader cannot afford to carry the weight of bitterness. Determine now that you will not carry it one day further into this new year.

No grudge.

No hatred.

No jealousy.

Not even a little. Not even for one day.

Light heart, better speed

Evoking bitterness from the heart is a matter of replacing it with its lighter counterpart—forgiveness.

And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.—Ephesians 4:32

Forgiving someone is like taking off the heavy boots and replacing them with lightweight running shoes. It frees our own hearts, and it enables us to receive and give God’s grace.

All of us will encounter opportunities to grow bitter—to carry a grudge, to nurse a jealousy, to harden our heart toward another. But if we are to effectively run the race set before us, we must look to Jesus and choose to be good forgivers.

Declutter your heart from bitterness, and in so doing, free yourself to run the race set before you.

Other posts in this series:

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