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A Spiritual Autobiography
How God fulfilled the faith-based hopes
of an ordinary guy from Jersey City
Clear Out the Clutter in Your Life
When I’m faced with having to make a decision about an overwhelming situation in my life, I know I should ask “What would Jesus do?” However, sometimes the specific situation I’m facing didn’t exist when Jesus walked in this world. One such situation is “information overload”. Like most Americans, I am faced with all kinds of information from all kinds of sources and media – TV, newspapers and magazines, the mail, and especially the internet. It comes whether I want it or not.
For as long as I can remember I felt that I must read everything that comes into my hands. Most of it might be useless, but it might contain something that could be useful. If not now, then some day in the future. I’d have to read it all in order to sort that out. There was a time when the amount of information and the time needed to read it all was in balance. But eventually things got out of hand. There was too much information and too little time. The way I dealt with that reality was that I saved and put aside a lot of this information, to be read when I could find the time. But I rarely found the time. Much of it I skimmed through, and then saved it, since it looked like it might come in handy some day.
About 17 years ago, when I was serving as a pastor, the evidence of this was a pile of unread church-related reference material, mostly clipped from magazines over the years. Then there were two cartons full of stuff that might come in handy in my ministry some day, and I was about to start filling a third carton. Some of it had traveled with me as I lived in three different home over about 25 years.
While I did refer to some of that material over the years, eventually I accepted that in my life-time I would never be able to get through all of that stuff I had saved, let alone all that was still coming my way. Yet I still held on to it all, and continued to add to it, believing it would still come in handy some day. And hoping that I would find the time to read it all. But that hope was never fulfilled. As a result, my life became cluttered with a lot of bits and pieces of information that might come in handy someday.
I could have asked what Jesus would do about this situation, but I realized that Jesus didn’t have to deal with information overload. There is nothing in the Bible about Jesus dealing with that issue. But then I wondered if Jesus might have some general principle that I could apply to my situation. I knew that while Jesus didn’t have to deal with a lot of the realities of our present age, there were some principles that could be applied and adapted to many situations, including the matter of information overload and the resulting clutter in my life. So there was hope where there at first seemed to be no hope of a clutter free life.
As I read the gospels I noticed that while Jesus was never faced with information overload, he was faced with “people” overload. No matter where he went, he was faced with people coming to him in order to berate and condemn him or to heal them and make them feel good. He could have let himself become overwhelmed by the needs and attitudes of all the people, but that never happened.
So what did Jesus do? He always kept in touch with God through prayer. As a result he always knew God’s will for him. He always knew how to proceed. He always acted accordingly. He never lost sight of his reason for living in this world – to proclaim the kingdom of God and to go to Jerusalem to die on the cross – for the eternal salvation of all people. That was what he hoped for. And by trusting that God would make it all possible, he proceeded with this ministry in this world, which only only lasted three years. Not much time. But enough time to do what he came to do. Despite all kinds of threats, interruptions and distractions, he never had any clutter accumulating in his life.
Once I realized how Jesus avoided living with clutter in his life, I realized what I had to do. The first thing was to discern God’s will for me concerning this matter of information overload clutter in my life. More specifically, I came to have a clearer understanding as to how to conduct my ministry as a pastor. Some changes needed to be made in terms of my hopes, the use of my time, and how to proceed. Very specifically, I understood that God was telling me I didn’t have to have information overload in my life. I needed to rely on him, and not on those cartons full of information, in order to fulfill my hopes for effective ministry.
For starters, this meant throwing out those cartons and their contents. Which I did. When I moved to my next church, and another home, none of that stuff came with me. But then I began to fall into that same old pattern. Giving in to information overload. saving stuff to be read later and might come in handy some day. Not having time to get to it. Before too long I had another carton full of that stuff. And again I got with God, and got the same insight I received before. Listen to God’s direction as to my ministry. Trust God to assure that my hopes for effective ministry would be fulfilled. Get rid of the that carton of stuff that might come in handy some day. A few more years went by, and the carton was getting full. But finally, last month, I did what God kept reminding me I had to do. I dumped all that stuff in the recycling can, where it belonged.
As is often the case, there is good news and there is bad news. The bad news is that the devil is still tempting me to open myself again to start a new carton of information overload. The good news is that I’m not giving in to that. I’m continuing to clear out the clutter in all aspects of my life and making sure that it never returns. I hope that I will continue to be successful in that endeavor. And I believe that hope is being fulfilled. Because I know it is God’s will and I know that it is the answer to the question “what would Jesus do?” Jesus always made sure that he kept his life clear of clutter. If you are dealing with information overload, or anything that tends to overwhelm you, I urge you to seek God’s direction as to how to clear out the clutter of your life. It is working for me.
Grace and peace, Ray