Housekeeping can seem like an ongoing work of a mother’s day-to-day life. Turn your back for just a moment, and the clean clothes dwindle, dishes produce unknown smells, and all the people within the home will be left wanting.
So it is for internal housekeeping — yet the stakes are much greater. “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life” (Proverbs 4:23). If we turn our backs for a moment, sin can begin to creep in, bad habits form, and spiritual filth starts to fill our hearts.
With all of this pervading mess, something must be done. Yet the busyness of our lives leaves us dropping our Bibles and slouching back onto our internal couches in discouragement: “How in the world can I muster the time and energy to tend to one more thing?”
Soul Care in a Time Vortex
We have three children, ages four and under. In our family, time is a vortex constantly clogged with cereal and diapers, laundry and cleaning. When we literally have little bodies and a home to oversee, heart issues like sin and holiness seem to be unworthy of our time and energy. Yet we must weigh the cost: if God has truly opened the eyes of our hearts and revealed the glory of the gospel of Jesus Christ, then we have also seen the ingloriousness of our sin, and we cannot let it reign in our bodies (Romans 6:12).
But presenting our bodies as instruments for righteousness (Romans 6:13) is never a victory of our own willpower. At four o’clock in the morning, when my muddied heart is seeking to meet with God, but instead I am met by a crying toddler, it is God working in me both the will and the ability to act (Philippians 2:13). He reminds me of the call to put to death what is earthly in me, setting my gaze heavenward, knowing that when Christ who is my life appears, I also will be with him in glory (Colossians 3:1–5).
We may need to be flexible with our time, Bible in one hand and baby in the other. But God will unfailingly provide all that’s necessary for our vision of him to be enhanced.
How to Cleanse the Heart
You cannot clean your home with just water. We are all using something. And in battling the many bacteria in our homes, we have to use something that will work. So it is with tidying our hearts. Simply wiping our hearts with a wet cloth of willpower will do nothing to sanitize sin.
So, what works? Nothing you can muster or buy. There is no antidote you can use to identify and kill the sin that lurks within your heart. In every circumstance, our ability to clear out the sin in our hearts depends on God’s Spirit and God’s word.
First, we deal with our sin only in the power of the Spirit. If you are Christ’s, then you have the Spirit of Christ, and he is at work within you (Romans 8:9, 13). We can bank on this reality. When we ask God to search us, revealing any grievous way in us (Psalm 139:23–24), he is faithful to act, guiding us to repent from wickedness and run to righteousness with enlarged hearts.
This work of the Spirit is a sure sign to us of our salvation — the Spirit’s work means that we are Christ’s, and therefore loved by God (Romans 8:9). We are not found blameless before God because we kill sin. Rather, being found blameless before God in Christ, we are given his sin-slaying Spirit. We can never clean out sin in our hearts unless it is by God’s Spirit working in us.
Battle Sin with the Word
Secondly, our hearts are cleansed by the power of God’s truth revealed in the Bible. How can a mother keep her way pure? “By guarding it according to your word” (Psalm 119:9).
As Christ exuded perfect holiness before Satan while being tempted in the wilderness, we see him use God’s word. We must gird ourselves with truth — Bible truth. The unbiblical parental mantras that we have heard our whole lives have no weight against “the god of this world” and his age-old, blinding schemes (2 Corinthians 4:4). Only God’s glory revealed in the Bible can uphold us.
I am convinced that the place of Bible memorization in the life of a mother is crucial. When our bodies are depleted, the heart can find strength in the life-giving words that have been stored up in it.
Fasten yourself to the Bible. It is there where the beauties of God’s multifaceted splendor are declared most clearly and powerfully. When we behold the glory of Christ in his word, we are changed into the same image, from glory to glory (2 Corinthians 3:18).
God Loves to Work with Weakness
A clean home provides minimal joy in light of eternity because we know this world is passing away, and Christ has gone to prepare a home for us. Yet a frequently-tended heart provides eternal rewards that we cannot see fully in this lifetime, but can taste in part.
God meets us in our weakened states. I have found it to be true, through this consistently wearing season, that I can flourish. God strengthens me by his Spirit through his word, reminding me of how, when I was still weak, Christ died for the ungodly (Romans 5:6). He recalls to mind the gospel: how the very sin I am struggling with now as a young mother was the same sin for which Christ died, to bring me to God (1 Peter 3:18).
Tending Your Soul Is Not in Vain
Sin is so grotesque and pervasive that we must daily ask God to reveal it. God provides all that we need — through the work of Christ to unite us to himself and the indwelling Spirit to sustain us until the end and the word of God to fuel our fight of faith — to press on in godliness, even when our flesh is failing through the exhausting seasons of motherhood.
Don’t stash your sin away and hope for the best. Keep your heart. This tidying transcends the temporal and gives way to far more than a clutter-free house. When we tend our hearts, we are given a better view of what we were made to enjoy: eternal glories in Christ Jesus.