—Charles Haddon Spurgeon, Morning and Evening ("All Have Sinned")</a>
Look for the earliest domino.
When trying to get to the bottom of a situation, especially one that's gotten out of hand, keep looking backward. Each falling domino has one that came before it. Cause and effect—cause after cause after cause. To stop the cycle, keep going until you find one of the earliest dominos. Then pull it out.
I'm not afraid of struggling, but I want my struggles to have meaning beyond my cramped personal drama. I need to be part of the Big Story, to regularly and with discipline place myself in the path of the wild, terrible, loving God of the Universe. I haven't been doing that each day, and I've been sliding farther and farther from the mark (The Greek word hamartia is translated as sin in the New Testament. Its literal meaning is "to miss the mark" or "to miss the target," most commonly applied to archery.).
In short, I've been letting too much garbage pile up in my life. It was a constant drain, a counterfeit life. And I chose—it's not something that just happened. I consorted with the enemy and yielded ground to him. Near the surface, it's a problem of patience: I didn't like waiting on my Lord, so I found other pursuits to comfort me; workarounds that got me through the days and weeks and months. Deeper, it's a problem of trust: I wasn't sure He would come through for me, so I found ways to hedge my bets and make the best life I could whatever way I could, without regard for His authority.
Sin is living as an orphan. I navigate the brokenness with brokenness.
Cleaning house isn't so hard, though it's critical. But what do I do with the now empty spaces? Jesus describes the problem: "When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, but finds none. Then it says, 'I will return to my house from which I came.' And when it comes, it finds the house empty, swept, and put in order. Then it goes and brings with it seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and dwell there, and the last state of that person is worse than the first" (Matthew 12:43-45).
So look for the earliest domino: time with God. Time each morning seeking Him, waiting on Him, praising Him, pleading with Him, learning about Him, learning from Him, being filled by Him. Placing myself in His path, even though and especially because that means waiting. A life without waiting is a life without hope. He is worth waiting for.
In the morning, when I say my prayers,
Thou wilt hear me
I set out my morning plea
and watch for Thee, O Lord.
The Lord detests traitors and men of blood.
But I, through Thy great love, may come into Thy house,
and bow low toward Thy holy temple in awe of Thee.
—Psalm 5:3, 6b-7