Wednesday, January 12, 2022

Deep Cleaning

My An Arkie's Faith column from the January 12, 2022, issue of The Polk County Pulse. 

Have you ever noticed that “garage” and “garbage” are only one letter different? Many of us have garages filled with things other than those intended for a garage. My two-car garage has just enough empty space to hold one car. I sometimes wonder why I keep all the things cluttering my garage. An old expression says, “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” I’m not sure of the origin of the phrase. Sometimes it’s written as “one man’s junk is another man’s treasure.”

I did an internet search of the phrase, and the earliest example I could find was in the book from the 1860s, Popular Tales of the West Highlands. The book is a four-volume collection of fairy tales, collected and published by John Francis Campbell and often translated from Gaelic. The introduction to the collection reads, “Practical men may despise the tales, earnest men condemn them as lies, some even consider them wicked. But one man’s rubbish may be another’s treasure, and what is the standard of value in such a pursuit as this?” The phrase seems to have taken off since the 1960s. Maybe that’s because we have become a much more consumer-based society. 

My Daddy and I have been in business in the same location for over forty years. Junk, or treasure, depending on your viewpoint, has been collecting here for all those years. Behind my shop were mountains of car parts and other treasures we had saved over the years.

A few months ago, I made a new friend, and for some time, he has been helping me clean up around my shop. He has hauled dozens of trailer loads of scrap metal to the recyclers. Clean-up is slow when there have been forty years of accumulation, but we have slowly progressed. I upgraded my dumpster to a larger size to have more room to dispose of things we no longer needed.

With the colder winter weather arriving, we have started cleaning up my shop building. I haven’t used one side of my shop for the last few years. During that time, it filled up with so many “things” that I couldn’t bring a vehicle inside. Around 2500 years ago, the Greek philosopher Aristotle wrote, “nature abhors a vacuum.” The phrase expresses the idea that unfilled spaces go against the laws of nature and physics and that every space needs to be filled with something. My shop certainly seemed to prove Aristotle correct.

After spending several days moving treasures, things I couldn’t bring myself to throw away, to another storage building and discarding a lot of trash, we could finally get a vehicle inside. But there is still much cleaning to be done. Shelves line the walls with forty years of accumulation of parts. We need to save some things, but much of it is no longer useful and needs to be thrown away. I plan to redo the ceiling, repair the water pipes shattered in last year’s record cold, and add more lights. When I complete the project, it will be a more comfortable place to work. But before I can move ahead with my plans, I must finish cleaning out the shop.

The beginning of a new year gets us thinking about what we want to accomplish in the future. Many of us have plans for our life. We may make New Year’s resolutions. But it seems like New Year’s resolutions are hopeless. In the comic strip Peanuts, Charlie Brown says, “The best way to keep New Year’s Resolutions is in a sealed envelope in a bottom desk drawer.” If we are so bad at keeping our resolutions, how can we ever expect to improve our lives? How can we hope to grow and become the person Jesus wants us to be?

New Year’s resolutions aren’t worthless. People who set goals are ten times more likely to succeed than those who don’t. Everything that we accomplish in life is because we resolved to do it. There is no need to be discouraged if you’ve failed before. We all will fail at some point in our life. Failing is a learning experience so that we can do better next time. “A righteous person may fall seven times, but he gets up again.” Proverbs 24:16 (GW)

Before we can accomplish the goals we have set for ourselves this year, we have to clean out the clutter in our lives. Just like the first step in my shop renovation is to clean out the trash, junk, and mess, we have to clean out the clutter before succeeding in life. But just like I have spent years avoiding the deep cleaning that I knew my shop needed, we often avoid cleaning the junk out of our lives.

Christian author, Laurie McClure, writes; “I think sometimes we avoid cleaning out our hearts because it means we have to look at junk that causes us to feel embarrassment and shame. Jesus paid for our shame, so we don’t have to wear it anymore!” King David wrote in Psalm 51:10 (ESV), “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” When we know that we have things that we need to get rid of in our lives, we don’t have to do it alone. God will help us if we ask.

I’m not sure that I would ever get my shop cleaned out if it wasn’t for the help of my friend. It seemed such an overwhelming task that I never started the project until my friend was there to help me. Without him, the job seemed impossible, but with his help, we are making the clean-up a reality.

Gentle Reader, when we make an effort to bring our hearts to God, asking Him to give us a clean heart, He will forgive our sinful attitudes and actions and make our hearts new again. Then we can clean out the clutter and junk from our life and uncover some treasures we thought were lost, such as “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.” Galatians 5:22 (NCV) This year, make a resolution to ask God to help you do a deep cleaning in your life.

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