Making Room for God’s Plans in the New Year
Making Room for God’s Plans in the New Year
In 2016, my New Year’s goal was to clear out 2,016 things from my home. It seemed like a huge number, but I’d read about this idea to set specific decluttering goals from Kathy Lipp’s book Clutter Free, and I felt equipped and motivated. My strategy for accountability was to keep a running tally on a piece of paper on the side of my refrigerator, and my unwanted items either went into the trash, were donated, or were put on Facebook to offer up to friends and family. I met my goal by that summer, and I was so proud to show off my tally list to disbelieving friends! Our guest room and garage, where most of our junk had collected, were looking a whole lot nicer, too.
Then, in August that same year, a tragedy occurred. My brother-in-law, a Green Beret, was killed in Afghanistan, and my young sister-in-law suddenly found herself a widow and alone in the state of Washington where she had no family. The very day she got the news, she asked if she could move in with us in Southern California. It was an easy question to answer, not only because we loved her, but because we knew we had the space. You see, God had been preparing us all year to welcome my sister-in-law in our home by helping us detach from our things, and that empty closet in the guest room, the empty drawers in the guest bathroom, and the space in our garage were already available for her and her things. Because we didn’t hold tightly to those things we didn’t need and we’d let them go, God made a clear path for us to join my sister-in-law in her grief and walk the hard journey of those first few months together.
A lot of times, our New Year’s goals involve something we want to add - more exercise, more travel, etc. But what in your life is taking up room that is keeping you from realizing God’s plans for you? What kinds of room can you make for God to work this year?
Leaders, look to the Bible for ways we are to consider our earthly possessions. As the Israelites were told to pack up their things to leave on the Passover, they had to trust God that what they were leaving behind was not necessary for their future. Similarly, the disciples were told to leave their things behind and trust that walking with Jesus would fill their every need: “Go, I am sending you out like lambs among wolves. Do not take a purse or bag or sandals, and do not greet anyone on the road” (Luke 10:3-4). The disciples were not to be distracted by material things or by gossip or by unnecessary social customs while on their mission. Too many things can block us from seeing God’s vision for us and for those we lead. They can become a burden, a hindrance, or even an excuse to say “no” to opportunities God brings our way. If we had to pick up and leave quickly like the Israelites, some of us might say, “No, Lord! It will take at least three months to sort the things in my home before moving.” If God called you to a new job or company in a new city, would you be ready to say yes?
Leaders, consider the stewardship of your spaces. As you look around your home or your office or your desk, your place of business, where do you have space that isn’t being stewarded well? Is there a room, a closet, or even a drawer in your place of work or your home that you can clear out and give to God to refresh its purpose?
I lead the children’s ministry at our church, and I spent last summer cleaning out an entire children’s ministry office that had been used by a former staff member. It was collecting junk from floor to ceiling! It had become a type of storage room - a catch-all for spare curriculum, old VBS tins, and random crafts. When the desk and shelves were full, people had started piling things on the floor, and I couldn’t even walk into the room when I began the project. There was no plan for the space once cleared out, but that didn’t matter. It wasn’t good stewardship of the space, so it was faithfully emptied of things that weren’t being used. I offered up a lot of the children’s books and DVDs on Facebook for free, and as people picked them up, I was glad that they were finally serving their intended purposes - to actually be read and spread the gospel to children in our community! They were doing much more good outside of the church than hidden away inside the church. As long as they were collecting dust in the office-turned-storage room, they were a waste.
Leaders, submit your space to the Lord. The children’s ministry office was completely emptied and stayed that way for a few months while we brainstormed possibilities. It could be made into a counseling office. It could be made into a room for mothers and babies during worship so that mothers who were worried about Covid could have more private rooms rather than share the one cry room we had. It could be a small groups room for parents to gather during the Sunday school hour. However, it was important that the room wasn’t just my own vision. I’ve learned that when things are my vision alone, they usually fail! We wanted God to lead us in how this room would be used, and in total submission, we did not leap to fill it back in immediately, but we waited for God to speak through needs, volunteers, and ministries.
Leaders, let God reveal a new vision for your space. And finally, a need presented itself, and we had the space to say “yes” to the idea! Our church was launching a family reunification ministry called Safe Families for Children where children in crisis would be hosted by church members, and the old children’s ministry office became an organized Safe Families Closet where host families can pick up shoes, backpacks, clothes, and more for the children who come to live in their homes. The closet is managed by a woman who has experience managing a donations closet for a crisis pregnancy center, and she does it beautifully. Other churches in our area with this ministry are also able to come and access our Safe Families Closet! My own family participates in this ministry, and I’ve visited the closet time and time again to gather items needed for the children we host. Because God provided a capable volunteer to organize it, the room will continue to be managed well and not fall back into a state of clutter.
Rather than storing up for ourselves treasures on this earth (Matthew 6:19) that we cannot manage, let’s expect that God is going to call us to new adventures, move us, and guide us, and let’s remove any stumbling blocks now! Clear out the clutter from your dining room. Maybe God will call you to homeschool there or your spouse to work from home there. Clean out the area under your stairs, and maybe God will use that space for storage for a new business you’ll start. Clear out the clutter under your child’s bed. Maybe you’ll be adding a trundle bed for homeless children who need a roof over their heads while their parents secure housing. Clear out the garage. Maybe you’ll add a ping pong table where you have the opportunity to finally invite over neighbors you’d been wanting to get to know. Clear out an unused room at your place of work. Maybe God can use this room for small prayer gatherings. Yes, all of these things happened to us in the last year, and I know there are still so many other ways God plans to clear out clutter and repurpose spaces in our home in order to grow our leadership of our family, our ministry, and our community! What will God do in your home, office, church, or community?
Let us consider what things around us are taking up room in our life and keeping us from new plans God wants to bring our way this year. Look around today and pray, “God, I want to give you this space. I ask for your forgiveness for ways that I haven’t managed my things and my space well, and now I submit it to you. What do you have in store for this area of my life that can glorify You, honor our mission, and be managed well by myself or others? Please open my eyes to Your vision.” If we start our year this way, we are going to experience deep trust, find rich purpose, and live with new freedom in 2022!
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