I love Lego. I don’t even remember how young I was when I received my first set, but I can still tell you exactly what it was—and how many pieces it had. I loved rummaging through my giant bins of parts, searching for the perfect piece. I loved the sight of hundreds of bricks spread all over the floor, just waiting for me to put them together. However, all this fun came with a price: picking them all up off the floor when I was done. That part I didn’t love so much, despite the danger to my feet. Navigating my room at night was…interesting.
You could say I was little messy. I suppose most kids are at that age, but I never quite grew out of it.
Fast forward a few years: I’ve been accepted to AC. For the first time in my life, I’m living away from home. My parents are no longer there to tell me to clean my room or make my bed. But that didn’t matter! I told myself that I was going to turn over a new leaf. I would be organized! I would be efficient! I would be tidy!
I did OK for the first few weeks. I had binders for each of my classes. I had space on each of my shelves for those binders and for my books. Every handout, every graded test, every assignment sheet had its own space. But one day, I was in a hurry and just left a couple of loose papers on my desk. No biggie, right? And the next day, when I didn’t put my notebook away right away—not a big deal. But pretty soon, my desk started to look an awful lot like the floor of my old room.
I struggled with this all through my freshman and sophomore years. I’d tidy up and be proud of how organized I was. I’d maintain it for a little while, but all too soon I’d have another giant pile of papers where my workspace used to be. I never seemed to be able to solve my problem, because, as I later learned, I had never identified the real problem.
I knew the principle involved here. You can find it in 1 Corinthians 14:33, 40: God is not the author of confusion and Let all things be done decently and in order. Clearly, God doesn’t appreciate a messy work area. I knew this is what I was supposed to aspire to, and once in a while I managed it, but I just couldn’t seem to keep it up. Why not?
The problem was that although I knew that I should keep my room in order, deep down I was thinking Is this really necessary? This is my space! I can do what I like with it! Let other people keep their rooms clean if they like, and I’ll keep my room messy if I like. I’m not hurting anyone.
Aha!! I’m not hurting anyone. Was that really true? I thought about it long and hard, and eventually had to face the facts:
1) I was hurting myself. I had no space to work because my desk was covered in papers. I couldn’t find anything because I had to search half a dozen piles for that one assignment sheet that I needed. Strangely enough, those conditions make it remarkably hard to get any work done.
2) I was hurting my roommates. Sure, I may have been okay with a cluttered desk and an unmade bed, but what about them? Maybe part of the reason they kept their areas clear was because they liked to see things tidy, because disorder bothered them. They didn’t have to live in my mess, but they still had to live with it.
3) I was hurting new students. Suppose a brand new freshman saw my desk. Maybe he thinks to himself, Hey, that guy has a messy desk and he’s doing all right. I bet I can get away with it, too! And just like that, I’ve spread the plague of clutter to someone else.
Romans 13:10 says that love works no ill to his neighbor. In other words, “do unto others as you would have others do unto you.” By not showing my fellow students the same courtesy and respect I wanted from them, I was not loving them like I should have.
Understanding this was kind of depressing. I never realized that my “little” issue was that far-reaching. But then I thought about it even more, and was forced to add a fourth item to the list:
4) I was hurting the college. By setting the wrong example, I was not upholding the AC standard and thus putting the college in a bad light.
Let me clarify so I don’t blow this out of proportion. Naturally, having a messy room isn’t the worst crime in the world, but it was still the wrong example. Once I recognized that, I was motivated to change.
In his first letter to Timothy, Paul encouraged the young man to “let no man despise your youth”—that is, not give anyone reason to criticize him for being in a position of authority when he was so young—“but be you an example of the believers, in word, in conversation ….” That word conversation should actually be translated conduct. Essentially, Paul was saying, There will be some who think you’re too young for this job, so you have to set the example! We aren’t in the positions of a minister like Timothy was, but we still have to set the example. We owe it to our parents and to the teachers who have put so much time into our upbringing.
Keeping your room tidy or picking up after yourself may not seem like a big thing, and in many ways it’s not, but remember that character is shown—and made—in the small things. That means that what you choose to do now makes a big difference in who you become. If I had chosen to pick up after myself willingly, back when I was a little kid, maybe I would have been the one people looked to as an example when I came to college, rather than the one doing the looking.
Think about it. You can choose now to become someone better than you are—or you can choose to step on Lego for the rest of your life.