I wanted coffee (nothing new there). After all, we were on a quick weekend getaway in Nashville, Tennessee (aka coffee heaven) and that’s what you do. As I rounded the corner of the Eighth and Roast building to return to my car, I discovered my wife with handfuls of random items walking toward the garbage can near the street. She had that look on her face and I knew instantly that she wasn’t exactly pleased with me at that moment. In life there are moments where you just know instantly what’s going on and there’s no need for explanation, but you know it’s coming anyway. This was one of those.
For months, maybe (probably) years, I have gone through periods of time where I have allowed my vehicle to become a sort of locker…a catch-all for random papers, kid art, lego’s, softball cleats, old restaurant menu’s (because Google isn’t good enough?) etc. I always justify this in my mind by thinking things like, “I drive a lot, it just happens. I basically live in this thing.” or “I have a kid and kids are just messy.” or most often, “I am so tired. I just want to get inside, put my things down and eat.” Although these thoughts aren’t necessarily inaccurate or untrue, the problem is I rarely did anything about the mess that continued to clutter my SUV.
One look at my wife’s face and I knew I was in trouble. As her lips pressed together tightly, almost as tightly as her hands grasped the trash that had littered the floorboards of my back seat for too long, I instantly knew she was done with the clutter (and as a result, so was I). Of course, we are talking about my car here, but to me I felt as though it was a microcosm of things that were going on internally. In my mind and in my spiritual walk I had allowed clutter to slowly accumulate to the point that I was unable to focus consistently on anything really. I had the hardest time praying or even making time to read a book. Life’s clutter leaves little room for valuable things. It left the floorboard of my life covered with so many random items that it became hard to focus on a few.
Webster’s Dictionary defines clutter as: To fill or cover with scattered or disordered things that impede movement or reduce effectiveness. Some synonyms are: Waste, distraction, no value, interference.
The interesting thing about clutter is that it isn’t usually one or two huge pieces of distraction that hinders us, it’s the collection of all the small things accumulated over a long period of time that becomes the problem. Every day we are so bombarded with distractions of all kinds. We may live in the most distracted society ever to exist. We take on way too many things, our phones buzz continuously, we watch excessive amounts of news, spend too much time on social media, and the list goes on.
Once the accumulation of clutter has begun, it becomes a slippery slope to a number of unwanted guests. The first one I always notice is complacency. I hate complacency because it takes the edge off our lives. It lowers our defenses. It lies to us and tells us things are “fine”. No need to try super hard…no need to stay on the offensive…no need to clean that floorboard. No one really sees it but us anyways right?? So, we walk around with an “oh-well” mindset.
I will now quote Nick Saban, because football. He said this before Alabama played an undefeated Number 6 Texas A&M team in 2016 after the Tide’s 19th consecutive win, when asked how he was going to keep his players focused on the game with all the success: “We encourage our players to stay focused on the things that matter…External factors that I call clutter really can affect your phycological disposition about how you need to compete in the next game, because you can get satisfied with people patting you on the back for what you did last week, then you get punched in the nose the next week.”
We have an enemy who wants to keep us in a distracted, cluttered, and complacent state. He wants us to think all the junk in our floorboards are “fine”. All the while, his fist is pulled back and ready to strike us in the nose when we least expect it. You see, I had every intention to take the time one day to clean my car. However, having intentions to remove clutter isn’t the same as actually getting it done. It took my wife, basically saying, “enough is enough”. Thankfully, her action provoked me to not just clean my car, but to evaluate my life…to “focus on the things that matter”.
So what do we do to minimize clutter? Every person is different and deal with various things, but I love how Saban approaches this with his players. He tells them to win the next play. Beat your guy. Do not focus on the overall game, just win the next battle. In our lives, it can be as simple as saying no to responding to emails for the next hour. Maybe we can take five minutes to walk outside and look at the sky instead of down at our phones. Maybe before we race into the kitchen to start prepping lunches for the day, we find our kids, look them in the eye, and tell them good morning and how much we love them.
As it relates to my car, my wife suggested I make a habit of removing junk each time I get out of the car as to prevent the build up before it ever happens. This is also a fantastic way to maintain our souls, our thought life. If we can find five minutes a day and quiet ourselves before the Lord with no distractions and at least give Him the opportunity to speak to us, chances are high that He will. If not, at least we can find some scraps of distracting paper to place in the nearest garbage container.