Most mornings we spend an hour tidying up: putting away dishes, making beds, kickstarting the laundry, and decluttering. It’s never perfect – and that’s perfectly okay! But I’m amazed at the difference in our ability to move through the day when the house is in order rather than cluttered and chaotic.
One day, I moved through the living room, duster in hand, and realized I couldn’t even dust completely because of all the clutter that had accumulated. Paperwork, a small box, some pictures, dead batteries, and other random, little things had taken over.
And, finally, these spots bothered me. They’d been accumulating for weeks, but I reached a point where I couldn’t bear them any longer. If I had dealt with them a little each day, they wouldn’t have gotten so out of hand. But I’d ignored them, and, in that neglect, they took over what otherwise would’ve been a beautiful space in our home.
As I cleared and tossed and shredded and sorted, I realized that I’ve let my soul get cluttered lately. I haven’t been diligent each day to strip off those things weighing me down, those things hindering my effectiveness or joy or purpose.
Those things like quick forgiveness…and handing my hurts over to God…and loneliness…and worry…and anger.
“…let us lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us…” Hebrews 12:1b
My word for 2016: Press. Press into the moment and the Presence of God. Press on past the excuses I’ve made. Press out worship like an offering of fragrant oil.
This pressing is bringing me into the Presence of God. And it’s requiring of me an awareness and willingness to lay aside those things weighing me down. Like ornaments of the Israelites when they worshiped a golden calf. The calf, which was not merely idolatry. The calf, which expressed how little the Israelites knew of the reality of God. Moses had come face to face with the Great I AM and knew best Who He is. The people formed their own suppositions and came up with a false image of God, based on their preconceptions founded in their idolatrous upbringing in Egypt.
How have we formed our own false images?
After the golden calf came the stripping. At first, they merely laid aside their ornaments. But God commanded that they be cast away. Removed completely. Not just tucked away to be put back on later. But mercilessly stripped away. This stripping away…it requires recognizing the weight that slows us down and the sin that clings, entangles, and trips us up.
God’s Presence moved in a pillar of cloud by day and fire by night. But, before they could be ready to follow God’s Presence any further, the Israelites had to remove their ornaments, stripping away the weights they wore.
If I want to be ready to stay with His moving Presence, I must be stripped down, ready to move freely. I have to be willing to ask myself the sometimes difficult questions: What is weighing me down? What’s tripping me up? Am I willing to release it so I can follow God’s Presence more closely?
For the past two years, I’ve traded in my typical list of New Year’s resolutions, boiling my focus down to just a couple of words. In 2014, Freedom and Gratitude stayed at the forefront of my heart all year, and God did some miraculous works in my life. 2015 had me continually returning to Live Today Fully.
I thought I’d found my word for this year…but God began to make it clear to me that I hadn’t quite gotten it right. So, I had a choice: ignore that check in my spirit and go with the warm, fuzzy word I wanted or lean harder into Him and hear what His heart is for me this year. And what I heard sure didn’t sound comfortable.
As soon as I heard it I knew. He’s asking me to mature into patience and perseverance this year. To not grow weary. To not give up. To do the hard things.
I’ve found that I seem to hear Him more clearly when I’m either in the shower or on a road trip. During the “lost” week between Christmas and New Year’s, my family made a cross-country trek to visit family. We make trips like this several times a year, so we’ve gotten comfortable being confined to a small space for hours upon hours. Those long hours on the road offer us time to focus on each other, dream, take silly pictures, make plans, have sing-alongs, play games, and so on.
And when it’s my turn to drive, my family naps while I sit alone with my thoughts, accompanied by the noise of the road and worship music turned high…and God speaks. This time, when I asked Him for clarity for 2016, He said, “Press.”
Press IN. Into His Presence. Into the present moment. My original, warm and fuzzy word comes in here…Presence. His Presence and mine. But it’s not enough to simply acknowledge His Presence, I need to press into it. It’s not enough to realize my own presence in a moment. I need to press into it.
Press ON. This is where it gets uncomfortable. Press on forward towards the goal. Press on past the excuses that have ruled me. Do not grow weary. Do not give up. Do not retreat. Do not give up ground in my soul. Press on! Persevere.
Press OUT. Those sins and weights on my soul that I’ve allowed have to go. They must be deliberately pressed out of my life. And I’m the only one who can do that. God will be there along every step, but it is my decision as to what I allow to give residence to in my life. And, the beautiful part? All this pressing into Him, pressing on forward, and pressing out sins I’ve grown accustomed to will result in a pressing out of worship that is like pure oil, healing and fragrant. That is the purpose here.
The most prized oils come from the first pressing. The most nutritious juices are from a fresh pressing. The most readied clothes have been pressed free from wrinkles. The most successful athletes have pressed past their own boundaries.
Press. When I don’t feel like it. When I’d rather lie down. When it’s difficult. When God seems distant. When my sins are comfortable. When my excuses seem like right justifications. When I’d rather sit back and coast. Press.
What is God showing you for 2016? Where is He calling you to grow with Him?