Two snail toys, two pencils, a slinky, assorted Lego pieces, a receipt, a plastic bag, a leaf, two marbles, a plastic toy soldier—all these and more I have found today as I sweep the cracks and crevices of my house in my weekly cleaning ritual. Now don’t get me wrong, I do light sweeping several times a week for things I can clearly see, but on Friday, my family and I give the entire house a good, deep cleaning and organization. My job is to sweep all the floors and clean the bathroom counters.
As I cleaned today, I was amazed at all the things that the broom was able to reach and clean. Everything I just mentioned, I couldn’t directly see. They were either under something, behind something, or camouflaged around something. These items were on my floor the entire time, but they came to light only when I picked up the broom and used it in a focused and intentional way to carry out my duties.
Nice story, but what does it have to do with my relationship with God? Simply put, in my daily attempts to know God better and love Him more, I seek to walk as closely to Him as I can, which means that I don’t want anything—including me—to get in the way of my relationship with Him. This means that when I knowingly slip up and get out of step with Him, I immediately confess my sin and ask Him to forgive me. That’s like sweeping up those things that I can see throughout the week. But what about all those things that I do during the day that I’m not consciously aware of—those things that aren’t so readily visible? You know, for example, those little snarky, angry, passive-aggressive comments I tend to make to the people I love the most because I’m put out, impatient, or upset with them because I didn’t get my way. Or it could be for a million other things I’ve done, as I move feverishly through my day, that separate me from a closer relationship with Jesus.
To fix this problem, I intentionally create some time in each day to talk to God. Usually, it’s at the end of the day. I get alone, still, and willingly hand God the broom and plead with Him to search and sweep me clean of all those thoughts, motivations, words, and actions that I, for whatever reason, have been unaware of.
Down through the years, eggheads who wrote about knowing God better (they called themselves “theologians”) have called this the “spiritual discipline” of repentance and confession. This may sound like a cheap way to define it, but to tell you the truth, it’s indeed correctly named. Out of all the things I do to know God better every day, repentance and confession, together with prayer, are the two most difficult. I can’t speak for you, but I find that it’s really hard to slow down and stop, and then consciously give God permission to dig around the cobwebbed corners of my crazy, crooked mind. It takes discipline!
So how can you do it? I’ll tell you my method, and from that, you can find what works best for you. I lie in my bed, stare at the ceiling, and simply pray, “God, I want to know You better. Please calm my mind and help me to listen to Your voice. I’m ready and willing to repent of and confess anything and everything I’ve done that puts an obstacle between us.”
To be honest, some nights it may take a good 20 to 30 minutes for my mind to calm down, and that’s why it’s important that you think deeply and seriously about this habit. There’s a real price to pay. It means that you have to put a relationship with God above all the other things that you do as you wind down in the evening. If you do it too early, your mind isn’t calm enough, but if you do it too late, you end up falling asleep. Truthfully, it took me several weeks to get the timing right.
Once God finally gets my mind calm, I recite what I like to call the most dangerous verse in the Bible: “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139:23, 24).
This prayer is dangerous because you’ve just given God permission to really do His work of deep cleaning with the broom He calls “the Holy Spirit.” God knows you’re serious about having a relationship with Him and are willing to do what it takes for Him to change you. I promise you that He will honor your commitment to the relationship.
For me, God immediately begins to bring to my mind things I’ve done that have separated me from Him. Sometimes it’s things I need to repent of, confess, and ask Him to forgive. Other times it’s things I need to confess to others and ask for their forgiveness. Whatever it takes, I’ll do it. I usually keep some paper and something to write with to make sure I follow up properly.
You see, this whole thing is about restoring relationships. When I work to restore my relationship with God, by extension, my relationships with others also improve. Jesus loves you and me so much that He came to this earth and took our death so that we could have an opportunity to have a relationship with Him.
So today, I want to encourage and challenge you—no, I want to dare you—to give God the broom. You’ll be amazed at the you that He sweeps into view!
Omar Miranda was the last editor of Insight magazine, a former Seventh-day Adventist publication for teens. He also contributes frequently to Signs of the Times®. He lives in Plainville, Georgia, USA.