Saturday, September 19, 2015

Taming the Paper Monster

I woke up this morning to this disorder and chaos in my dining room, and yet, strangely enough, I rejoiced and exulted over it with an immense satisfaction.

This situation caused me to see an analogy to how God can still rejoice over us even in the midst of our mess.

Usually my dining room looks perfectly tidy, and since the day I moved, I think this is the first time I have had any clutter or mess on my table overnight. So how could I have such a rush of pleasure upon having my first waking thought be the state of my dining room? Why would it give me such genuine thrills from the very depths of my being to see it in such a state?

Because of what I did in my dining room last night that caused it to be left in such a state.

Last night I finally worked up the courage to go through a certain blue rubbermaid bin. This bin has been weighing on my mind ever since I moved into this house, and I have been telling myself for 3 months that I needed to do it and trying to work up the courage to tackle it.

This rubbermaid bin was full of papers.

Papers have always been my worst enemy. Clutter from papers has always been my nemesis. Piles of papers, to me, have never been anything but a paralyzingly confusing puzzle to solve. I would stand there in the midst of my paper mess, looking dazedly at the problem, and finding it utterly daunting. I would wander aimlessly from one paper to another, pick it up, look at it, try to drag out of my brain a good idea for what to do with it, and put it back down only to repeat the process with a different paper.

For the last two years, I have had no system of organization, and in that time my papers grew to fill this Rubbermaid bin. I labeled this bin "the bin of death," and I regarded it with dread. Its existence grew to be a weight always present at the back of my mind. It was a giant, utterly disordered mixture of important and unimportant stuff, from still-unopened junk mail two years old to birthday cards to bank statements to things like my vehicle title and my passport. It was all such a jumble I would never have been able to actually FIND any of these documents if I had needed them.

Since June, the bin had sat in my garage. In July, I bought a filing cabinet at a yard sale. In August, I bought file folders and hanging folders. Still, I kept procrastinating on actually hauling it forth into the light to tackle it, mainly because of how impossible it seemed. All of my life, I had had problems with paper clutter, but never this bad.

But wonder of wonders! Last night I got the courage to pull it out.

And then the real miracle began.

One by one I looked at the papers, created a file folder for them, wrote the name neatly in calligraphy on the tab, and tucked the paper into its folder. (I know, amazing, right? Who would have thought to use folders to file papers?)

I had gone through the whole top layer of the bin when I realized that for the first time ever, this was easy. Nowhere to be found was the overwhelmed paralysis, the wandering aimlessly in circles, picking up a paper only to put it down somewhere else and pick up another one. Gone was the distress of losing massive amounts of time without actually getting anywhere. Strangely missing was the cluelessness of how to proceed that had hitherto always been with me when I worked myself up to tackle my papers.

And when it dawned on me that it was easy, I realized I was also enjoying myself immensely. With a surge of new energy, I knew that I would be able to tackle every paper down to very the bottom of the bin in this same way. With a feeling akin to euphoria, I whipped out my iPhone to document this incredible marvel.

For the first time in my life, I tamed the paper monster. I got through the whole box without ever being paralyzed once, and I completely organized the whole mess in one evening. I am the master of my papers rather than them being the master of me.

It was midnight, and I went to bed, leaving a couple of random, easy-to-do things on the table, knowing that the source of stress and procrastination was over. The bin is only half-full now (the rest got thrown away), and even what is still in the bin is just there to be carried back out to the garage to be placed neatly into the filing cabinet drawers, where it will rest in tranquility and order. And then the bin will actually be empty, and it will be freed up for storage of stuff more appropriate to its design.

It brought the most immense sense of relief and peace to have this weight off my mind, and I slept like a baby.

Praise and glory and thanksgiving be to the name of Jesus for enabling me to do this!!

It's no wonder, then, that I woke up this morning with that sense of relief and thankfulness and empowerment still fresh upon me. Walking into the dining room and laying my eyes on THIS was such a privilege and a joy.

Therefore, the fact that the dining room has a few things still to be attended to (which will be easy and quick) does not diminish my rejoicing in the least.

All of this caused me to think of the fact that God, in His infinite mercy and wisdom, sees our inner lives and notes the places where there is chaos and disorder (even when we've tucked it into an inconspicuous bin on the bottom shelf of the garage). In the fullness of time, He brings the bin out and starts to deal with it. One by one, piece by piece, He infallibly puts it in order. He rejoices over this work, because He loves us and desires us to see us walk in the light and conform to His image.

When we respond to His cleansing work and allow Him to bring up all these things that have long lain buried under a facade of apparent order, things surface that we haven't seen for a while. And if we don't have the perspective on the greater work God is doing, we could wake up in the morning and say, "Oh no! What happened to my dining room? It was always clean before!"

Trust me: I would much rather have a small quantity of papers on my dining room table overnight than to keep my dining room clean and have that bin of papers continually festering in the back of my mind for months on end. The difficult work is done, but the outward results don't necessarily show the whole story.

There's the bin in my garage. Pretty innocuous, wouldn't you agree? Who would ever guess that its contents would be such a big deal? An outsider just looking at this garage would just shrug and not see anything remarkable. You wouldn't guess that this bin was the source of so much distress and mental anguish over a prolonged period of time.

And that's like our lives. We have this one little section, this one little hidden area of sin, this thing that has been allowed to fester, where it's really not super urgent or a big deal if we take care of it or not. The world is not going to end if we procrastinate on it just a little longer. We know it's going to be daunting if we drag it out into the open where it needs to be if it gets taken care of. But as long as it is left unattended, our nemesis will continue to get the better of us.

As soon as I brought the bin into the house, the dining room got quite messy very quickly. At one point, the row of folders on the table got so long that I had to watch out that the front ones didn't slide onto the floor. And my garage wasn't that much better for the temporary absence of one bin. In fact, even after I have emptied out all the papers, the bin is still going to take up the same footprint in the garage that it always did. So for all outward appearances, things had progressed backward rather than forward.

Don't we usually stop right there when God begins to work in our lives? We freak out over the fact that things are looking worse rather than better, and we say, "You know what? No, I'm just going to shove that bin right back into the spot in the garage where it was when my dining room was always clean."

But then the problem will just have to be dragged out at some other time. The mail is going to continue to build up. The lack of a system for papers is going to cause me to begin to fill a second bin if I don't deal with the first one, and down the road it will be twice as much work to solve the problem. The chaos will contribute to extra loss of time and unneeded stress when I do something like decide to sell my vehicle and suddenly I realize I don't know where the title is, and I begin frantically digging through the bin and scattering all these same papers that I was unwilling to deal with when God pointed them out.

God does the heavy lifting in our lives, pulling out the bin and sitting down and sorting out the issues, and then He invites us to rejoice with Him. Let us rejoice, even if we see a couple more things that He is going to get to in the morning. Do not discount the quality and truth of rejoicing merely due to unworthiness on your part. Will I rejoice a little more when I pick up the last few things from my dining room and move all the folders to the filing cabinet? Absolutely. But my rejoicing over the fact that the paper bin was tamed was so sweet that for the moment no other issues were able to eclipse it.

What a Jesus we serve!