Today is a long overdue cleaning day for me and I am delighted that I will have several helpers to assist me. This is no ordinary cleaning day. We will be emptying out closets that have not been touched for years and burrowing into corners that rarely see the light of day.
This kind of cleaning, at least in the northern hemisphere, we usually associate with spring and the season of Lent when we clean out our houses as a symbol of the inner cleaning that God is doing in our lives. But the autumn too seems an appropriate time to begin the cleaning process as a symbol of the cleansing our souls need in preparation for the Advent season and the coming of the Christ child – a season that the cool mornings and cloudy days remind me are not far away.
And of course, those of you in the Southern Hemisphere are right on time for that big spring clean, not just in your houses but in your lives. Consider it a preparation for the Advent and Christmas season.
September and October for many of us are times for intense planning as we start to think about the year ahead and how God wants us to shape our lives and our ministry into the future. Hopefully it will not just be a time of business planning. This is also a good season for another retreat time to reflect on the year that is passing and the one that is to come. It is a good season to take extended time to listen to God and discern what God is saying… before we start to plan.
I want to make sure this year that the rest and refreshment of the summer does not get swamped by the growing busyness of the season. And, as I mentioned yesterday, I want to make sure that I take time to listen to the quiet voice of God that comes not in the whirlwind of activity I am so easily drawn into but in a gentle whisper .
I have always been challenged by the story of Elijah as it is recounted in 1 Kings 19. Here is a great man of God, who has done remarkable things but feels like a failure primarily because he is exhausted and too distracted to recognize God’s provision and hear what God is saying.
All he can say to God is “I have zealously served the Lord God Almighty but the people of Israel have broken their covenant with you…. ” Elijah seems to be caught in that mind numbing space where there is so much whirring around in his head that there is no way he can hear the voice of God. And like so many of us when we are under pressure, he feels as though no one else in Israel is still following God.
When we are exhausted and over busy it is easy to see ourselves as God’s answer to the world’s need. And we can become very self righteous in the midst of it saying like Elijah “I have been zealous for God but no one else has is following you….” I know because I have been there and don’t want to go there again. But I still need regular reminders. That is one of the reasons that I am such a strong advocate for regular retreat days and times of reflection. For those of us that are activists as Richard Foster says “Busyness is not of the devil, busyness is the devil.”