Imagine a child that brings their lunch box to their mother to quickly fill before they rush off to school. They're already running late, and to mom's horror the lunchbox is absolutely filthy. Inside and out are smudges of stuck food, remnants of unwanted former contents, and unidentifiable ingredients to what appears to be a science experiment gone horribly wrong. The sanitation factor is beyond questionable. But there's no time. Can you imagine a mother that would quickly wipe down the outside of the lunchbox alone so that the teachers and other parents wouldn't see the mess, but leave the inside to putrefy another day? I've been guilty of making this mistake with my heart. I've been so overwhelmed by life's little naggings or by cleaning up what others can see, wiping down the superficial, that I've too often neglected the inside of my lunch box. I've tried to ignore that deeper part that so badly needs attention. I didn't want to make time for what no one else could really see anyway.
I recently spent a week down in southern Wisconsin closing on my condo and putting on a garage sale. I returned home with boxes from my childhood that had resurfaced during preparation for the sale, three overflowing baskets of laundry, bags of vegetables from my parents garden to be chopped/frozen/used/whatever, and infinite other odds and ends. By the next morning the living room was spilling over with new to-do's on top of the dishes, left laundry, and ridiculous amount of other tasks that I had left behind before my trip even started.
Each day I battled the balancing of tending to my 16 month old daughter and tackling the disaster zone that was my apartment. For every one thing I crossed off my list, there were two more things I realized I had to add to it. I noticed appointments I had missed, that I desperately needed an oil change, tons of e-mails I had to respond to, and the list goes on.
Finally, when my kitchen counter was spotless and my living room was tidy, I sat in wonder as to why I still felt totally and completely overwhelmed and inadequate.
It was then that I heard that voice that had been whispering all along. All those days of cleaning and being flustered, I had pushed back that voice telling me that I needed to spend some time with my Savior. I had not spent any time in bible study, personal reflection, or even prayer during those days of playing catch up. I was Martha on a whole new horribly embarrassing level, and I needed so, so badly to just be Mary.
So I sat and I read my bible. Then I caught up on two full weeks of HHH. For the rest of the day I listened to sermons on www.areasonforhope.net by Pastor Don Patterson while I tended to other suddenly less stressful things in my life.
I finally gave the inside of my lunchbox some of the attention that it so badly needed. My to-do list is probably as long as ever, but "cleaning" and focusing on the inside first has a way of making life so much more manageable.
I finally had the mindset of:
Create in me a new heart, O God and renew a steadfast spirit within me! Psalm 51:10
Create for me a clean house, O God, and renew the sense of order within it.
Maybe my daughter watched a few extra episodes of Sesame Street and my husband grabbed fast food on the way home from work, but I made the time to re-prioritize God, and my renewed spirit is ready to tackle the rest of list, and give my whole lunchbox the attention it deserves- inside always first, of course.