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December 30, 2011

order begins in the soul

A messy life is usually a reflection of a messy soul. When a person's visible life is chaotic, their inner life is also in disrepair. Or at least, this is my observation. The reverse is not as often true. By this I mean that a neat house, a RSS feed to I'm an Organizing Junkie or carefully-filed paperwork are not sure indicators of a soul is at peace. But mark my words, continual disorder on the surface is harbinger of more serious problems. Just keep your eyes open.

Growing up, I knew two families that stood out as having particularly messy homes. I'm not talking about a bit of clutter here and there. I'm talking rooms full of flotsam; and couches that always had to be cleared of miscellanea before a person could be seated. Important documents that never were filled out. Piles of gifts that never were given. Broken door latches that stayed that way. Let's be serious: it took a special kind of person to want to spend much time in these homes. They were a mess.

Years later, we learned that these families were (almost literally) covering deeper problems of the heart. Today, instead of the clutter of a home office covered in papers, I hear that their hearts have been torn to bits. Shards of relationships cover the ground and litter the shelves, paying no regard to the Bible on the window sill or the Bible college diploma on the wall. If only the disarray had merely been that of papers and collectibles, not that of hearts and lives.

I have lived with people whose bedroom floors are almost always covered in, well, anything and everything. Once, my brother noted that when he visited the home of a girl he had an interest in, there were empty cans all over the house; general chaos reigned. I told him that this was a warning sign, that was not the type of girl to date. (He didn't pursue her, though for reasons other than my warning). I have become increasingly convinced that when there is simply no desire for order, greater issues than cobwebs and dust bunnies abound.

Order in a home is more than physical or visual order, it is also order behind the scenes, in how the home functions on every level. Mental order, that understands and submits to God-given authority structures and categories. Spiritual order, where Christ is preeminent, as He should be. (Order always implies the use of suitable categories and distinctions). Homes that exhibit order through cleanliness, peacefulness and godliness are the most comfortable and welcoming for souls seeking Jesus. Physical disorder is often just an indicator that other disorder exists.

Notice that I speak of this in generalizations and in the long-term. I cannot make these statements across the board, because there may be a few loving yet disastrous-looking Christian's homes. And we must all know what it is to have a messy house to clean up, now and again. I'm more organizationally challenged than some. But I think that the difference is, when things get messy, something inside of me says this: as soon as I carve out some time, I'm going to clean this up. I don't want to live this way. I know there's something wrong about living in disarray.

When my home is in order, it seems that I have more time to look in on my soul. When I have time to look in on my soul, I am reminded of my need for the "simplicity and purity" of rekindled devotion to Christ. Just as a city on a hill cannot be hidden, neither can the peace brought about by a life that models godly order.

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