The Real Thing

I clean my room maybe three times per year. Yeah, it’s about a tri-annual thing. At this point you are either appalled at me or you think my cleanliness is reasonable, everyone is a little different. Regardless of the frequency of your room cleaning sessions, the cycle is the same for everyone. It goes like this:

  1. Room appears clean, the world is a good place
  2. Room begins to feel cluttered
  3. Room looks like a hurricane came through it
  4. Room gets to the point where you just can’t stand it any more and you have to put on some music and dedicate a Sunday afternoon to cleaning it.

Now, the discrepancy comes when we arrive at the matter of length between steps, and what exactly is considered a “pigsty”. Personally, I can usually go a couple months without seeing my carpet before I decide to finally do laundry.  It usually doesn’t bother me at all until one random day I will be caught in a bad mood and freak out, wondering how my room got so messed up. Then begins the arduous task of restoring order to the madness. This usually requires multiple loads of laundry, two large garbage bags, and maybe a vacuum cleaner…maybe.

My friend, Justin, and I often times have the same experience with our faith. I think especially for students it is easy to get wrapped up living in all the Christian clutter. We can go for months without seeing the gospel, and be completely unaware of the repercussions. It isn’t that we aren’t doing enough Christian stuff, believe me, there is plenty of that, it is just that it has been so long since we had the real thing.

For a long time, my schedule looked like this: Monday-FCA, Tuesday-small group, Wednesday-youth group, Thursday-Catalyst, Friday-small group #2, Saturday-Catalyst leader meeting, Sunday-Church. So I think I know what I’m talking about when it comes to doing a lot of Christian things.

To be sure, these activities are great and can produce a lot of fruit. But, these same things that were supposed to be filling me up became exhausting. Every event was just another thing on my schedule to check off. My “room” was full of stuff that was just distracting me from the simple truth of Jesus. I couldn’t even see the carpet.

I can remember one breaking point in particular. I was driving home from work one night listening to the same John Mark McMillian cd that I had been playing all week. I really liked the song that was playing, but it no longer meant anything. Then, I reflected on the week and realized that nothing really meant anything. I had been going through the motions, playing Christian, and nobody had even thought to call me out on it.

It’s that same snap that brings me to stop living in the filth of my room. The same drive that brings us to do our laundry. The same motivation that makes us actually get off the couch and go for a run. I was sick of the Christian fluff; I didn’t want a good song, sermon, or church camp. I didn’t want a coffee shop small group or a bible study. I didn’t want stage fog at a worship set and I definitely didn’t want to lead in any capacity.

I wanted Jesus and nothing else. Pure, unconditional, Jesus Christ.

Getting back to the basics can be tough. You might have to fill spiritual garbage bags with all of the crud you are carrying around, forget about the responsibilities you put on yourself, and get rid of all the expectations that are placed on us. Then we get to sit by ourselves, pray to God and be brought to our knees in tears because of the dumbfounding love that he, for some reason, has for us.  Then I just want to sit in it, marinate in that love until feel a pulse in my heart again, a glimpse of life in what was spiritually dead.

Then I’ll feel alive again, at least for a while. But, brothers and sisters, we live in a crooked and twisted generation, and our biggest tormenter is ourselves. We place all the burdens on ourselves and pretend we are okay until we can’t stand it any more.

The cycle in non-preventable, unbeatable, but it can be broken. And let me tell you, when you finally get your room clean, it’s hard to imagine living in all that filth.