The Problem of Obsessively Organizing

Posted by Susan On September 15, 2011 ADD COMMENTS

Nothing could have thrilled my six-year-old grandson more than the opportunity to ride in the cab of a real combine harvester during wheat harvest last weekend. His Dad was good enough to spend the day driving over an hour away to a friend’s farm so Jakob and his little brother Ethan could have this long-awaited experience, and nothing– nothing– could have made Jakob happier.

While they were gone, their Mom chose to stay home alone with the baby, where she had determined to take advantage of a full day without distraction to clean the whole house while the big boys were away. But by mid-afternoon, she called me, exasperated that she was so far from completing her task. “The problem,” she said, “is that I’m apparently so obsessed with ‘organizing’– cupboards, drawers, closets–that it’s taking far too long, and I can’t seem to get around to cleaning the house itself!”

“How in the world did you become so obsessive about organizing?” I sheepishly muttered, tongue-in-cheek. Sarah, unfortunately, inherited a double-whammy– my husband is much worse than I am about “organizing!” I felt convicted and wondered, “Why am I myself so obsessive about organizing everything into categories!?”

Yet in reality, it isn’t just our particular family trait. The obsession to constantly pack the details of our lives into neat little organized boxes is common, by and large, and inevitably, it spills over into every single area of our lives! Somehow, we end up organizing all the little routines of our daily chores and activities into categories; we herd our children into nicely organized peer groups all the way through their childhood; we determine how we will eat according to organized food groups; categories of friendships determine when and how we will interact with others; we carefully differentiate and organize the subjects that compile (what we perceive to be) a proper education for our children… and the examples go on and on endlessly.

Admittedly, organization enables us to function adequately, and prevents chaos. But when organizing becomes an obsession, we run amuck– and like Sarah finding herself unable to accomplish the “main thing,” we end up frustrated when we too become so distracted by the ‘method’ that we lose the ‘goal.’

Nowhere is this more evident than in our Christian faith! Even though I had grown up in a Christian home, it was not until I was in my mid-30’s that I was shocked to suddenly recognize how I’d been constantly organizing my life into neat little areas where faith applied or didn’t apply. I’d been so conditioned in departmentalizing it that I realized there were some areas that I deemed faith to be appropriate, which I would have called “heart issues”–like my private devotional life, my family life, my church life– while by default there were other areas, “brain issues,” where I was assuming faith did not belong– like in business, career choices, science, education, economics, politics…

Likewise, I had been regarding some areas of work as “ministry” or as “God’s calling”– the “sacred” work of a missionary, a pastor, a worship leader– while I was differentiating other career “brain” choices as totally “secular.” There was a clear sacred (“heart”) v.s. secular (“brain”) divide!

Though I would have been offended if anyone had suggested it, for all those years I really did not hold a comprehensive Christian worldview. Caught up in neatly organizing the areas where I assumed my faith had relevance, I’d completely missed “the main idea!”

As Christians, we need to examine how we apply our faith to life. And quite honestly, when faith is truly authentic, it touches every area of life with no exceptions! In short, we need a comprehensive Christian worldview. (A “worldview” does not imply that we let the “world” determine how we see things. Rather, it is the perspective with which we see the world.)

In her book, “Total Truth: Liberating Christianity from Its Cultural Captivity,” Nancy Pearcey wrote, “The first step in forming a Christian worldview is to overcome this sharp divide between ‘heart’ and ‘brain.’ We have to reject the division of life into a sacred realm, limited to things like worship and personal morality, over against a secular realm that includes science, politics, economics, and the rest of the public arena. This dichotomy in our own minds is the greatest barrier to liberating the power of the gospel across the whole of culture today…

“…The most effective [Gospel] work is done by ordinary Christians fulfilling God’s calling to reform culture within their local spheres of influence– their families, churches, schools, neighborhoods, workplaces, professional organizations, and civic institutions. In order to effect lasting change, we need to develop a Christian worldview.”

Charles Spurgeon once said, “The gospel is like a caged lion. It does not need to be defended, it just needs to be let out of its cage.” Nancy Pearcey added, “The cage is our accommodation to the secular/sacred split that reduces Christianity to a matter of private personal belief. To unlock the cage, we need to become utterly convinced that Christianity is not merely religious truth, it is total truth– truth about the whole of reality.” Can you imagine the powerful affect that this next generation can have, if we can succeed in teaching this to our children and grandchildren?

Our Christian faith is rendered powerless when it’s regarded as just another aspect of our life that needs to be controlled and inserted neatly into its proper boxes. In truth, it’s a powerful lion that needs to be uncaged to infiltrate every nook and cranny of our lives! Every thought must be taken captive to obey Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5) and we must truly learn how to love the Lord our God with all our hearts, souls, strength, and minds (Luke 10:27). Only then will we stay true to the “main idea.”


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