Decluttering Our Hearts

During God Focus time today, our lovely friend Ros invited us to reflect on those things that may be cluttering our hearts right now and distracting us from the Lord. She shared a brilliant illustration that invites us all to examine, confess and declutter our hearts in order to make more room for God in our lives. I found it very meaningful and helpful, so I invite you now to reflect with me on what the Lord gave me through Ros’ sharing. And I invite you to respond and share some of your thoughts and experiences around this issue.

Ros put out two bowls as a concrete illustration. One bowl was filled with just water, and one was filled with water and stones. She compared the bowls to our hearts and lives, the water to God’s presence, guidance and work in our lives, and the stones to those things that keep us from the fullness of God. She noticed how the stones displaced the water. The bowl with the stones had about half as much water in it as the other bowl.

Ros encouraged us to declutter our hearts so that we can experience God more fully, gain clarity about how he’s leading us, and be free to respond to his promptings. She suggested that this is a good way to prepare for Good Friday and Easter Sunday, and she shared with us this prayer written by Jean Danielou:

Vacare Deum – Be Free for God

(In Lost in Wonder by Esther Waal, Norwich, Canterbury Press, 2003).

I have a need
of such a clearance
as the Saviour effected in the temple of Jerusalem
a riddance of the clutter
of what is secondary
that blocks the way
to the all-important central emptiness
which is filled
with the presence of God alone.

As Ros shared, I noticed how the ‘decluttered bowl’ reflected the light from the candle next to it. The pattern was beautiful, and it made me aware of my desire to declutter my own heart so that I can more fully reflect the light of Jesus.

I thought about what stones might be lurking in my heart, and they were not hard to find. I was grateful for the opportunity to become aware of them in order to confess them to our Father – every fear, every worry, every disappointment.

As I did this, I noticed that the refraction of light in the bowl bore rainbow-like reflections. Can you see them? It reminded me of God’s promise to forgive and to cleanse us. As 1 John 1:9 promises,

If we confess our sins,
he is faithful and just
and will forgive us our sins 
and purify us
from all unrighteousness.

What an amazing exercise in and of itself! But God still had more for me…..

I took time to reflect on Psalm 51:10, which says – Create in me a pure heart, 
O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit 
in me. 

And when I looked up at the reflection in the bowl again, the pattern seemed to me like a dove. Do you see it? A dove is a beautiful symbol for the Holy Spirit. As soon as I expressed my desire that God fill me more fully, he answered. And he used this reflection to confirm his desire to fill me.

And yet God still had more for me in this illustration. As I took a photo of the bowl with the stones in it, the reflection in that bowl really struck me. Unlike the cool reflections in the uncluttered bowl, the bowl with the stones could not reflect the candle light or what was around it. It couldn’t reflect much at all, really.

Not only had the stones displaced the water, but the only reflection in that bowl was the stones mirrored back. The Lord reminded me that this is the problem when our hearts our cluttered. Not only do the stones in our hearts crowd out God, they make us focus on the stones and everything they represent. Our lives then reflect back our worries and concerns, fears, problems, and whatever else is in our hearts. And isn’t this just what Jesus tells us in the Parable of the seeds,

20 The seed falling on rocky ground refers to someone who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. 21 But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. 22 The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful.  (Matthew 13:20-22 NIV)

Troubles and worries can quickly crowd out our joy in the Lord, threaten the growth of our faith, and make us unfruitful. In other words, this reflection illustrates that when selfishness sets in, the stones just keep piling up and become our focus. Rather than fixing our eyes on Jesus, we focus on the clutter. And rather than bringing that clutter to God, we just look at it and dwell on it. This is a huge problem, and it so easily happens to all of us.

In contrast, the bowl that is free from stones represents a clear focus on God. When we declutter our hearts, we are enabled to see beyond ourselves to the world God has created, and we can be open to discerning how God is leading us.

God still had one more thing to show me through this illustration.

I changed my camera angle on the bowl of the stones and noticed that the water is still present among the stones. And I could see glimpses and shadows beyond the stones.

This reminds me of what Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 13:12-13,

Now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. 13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. (NIV)

God’s grace is always at work. There is always hope because of God’s great love for us. When we can only see a little, and our knowledge is limited, it doesn’t mean that we are hopeless.

Even in hearts full of stones, God remains present , and his Spirit longs to fills us. Although the stones make it really difficult to grow or to see God’s work in us and where he is leading, by faith we can ask God to help us remove every stone as we become aware of them. And as we do so, God will fill us even more fully with his loving blessings.

The need to declutter the stones in my heart that I didn’t realise were there,
God’s grace in revealing what is in our hearts to us, the immediate freedom and assurance received once I took time before the Lord to unclutter my heart, the danger allowing these stones to persist presents to us, the contrast to being free to focus on Jesus and his creation, and the promise that even when we are unfaithful, God remains faithful to us and present in our lives — these are the treasures God gave me today that I share with you.

I pray that our Lord will keep you from anything that takes his place in your heart. May he remind you of his presence with you and enable you to cast every care on him, knowing that he cares for you. And may he bless you and keep you focused on him.

I invite you to reflect and share with me what you think about the following questions. Leave a comment below, or email us.

  • Are there stones in your heart and life right now? What are they?
  • What practices help you to declutter your heart and life and free you to focus on God?
  • What gifts, promises and reminders do you sense or experience as you bring all that is in your heart to the Lord? What treasures has God given you that you can share?

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