As I shared in last week's Saturday Morning Live, I have been cleaning out and downsizing. Over the past month or so, I have been going through boxes of stuff: old journals, papers from my teaching days, college assignments, high school memorabilia, wedding cards, baby stuff, first drawings from Janna, art projects, ministry files. It has been an interesting process. As I have been doing so, God is showing me what is really going on in my heart. I think I realized this as I was working on my stuff. I found myself unearthing things that I had saved in the past "just in case" I would need them. As a former preschool teacher, I have odds and ends of old recyclables that I have held on to for years. They were meant to be used for craft projects, science experiments, and math manipulatives. When I saved them, I didn't even have kids! That is how long I've had them.
What is underneath this "hoarder" mentality? Really and truly? One word: Fear of being without. Ultimately, it reflects a heart of distrust and unbelief that God won't be able to take care of you. I can see this in myself when I have come to the point of making the decision "Should I toss this or keep it?" It's like there is a tug of war inside of me. I'm positive that once I let go of it, I'm going to find that I need it and will regret tossing it. (Never mind the fact that I haven't used it or even remembered it in over 15 years. I'm sure that things will change tomorrow.)
Then there are other things I have kept out of plain nostalgia, like yearbooks, photos from former students, certificates of accomplishments, even my valedictory address in high school. Why do I keep these? Mainly, it is because I don't want to forget the "good 'ol times." But unless I spend my time poring over them, they really are doing no good in a box.
Even if I did, all I'm doing is reliving my past and old glory days. As I mentioned in my post on Saturday, God desires us to forget what is behind and press on to what is ahead. Most of these things are linked to my past successes, the accolades and accomplishments that are so important to me. However, when I hold on to these old things, even if they are high points in my life, they can keep me from moving ahead with Him to where He wants me to go. In order to move forward, I need to let it go.
Then there are other things that I have collected over the years, like Precious Moments figurines, candle lamps, Nancy Drew books, and rubber stamps. Yes, I am a collector. I am not a collector of one thing, however. I start a collection, get bored of it and then move on. I don't have a complete collection, but a sizeable enough one that takes up a bit of space.
I ask myself why I do this. And the answer, if I am honest, is because I like the thrill of having and owning something. It makes me feel rich somehow, that I could afford to have it. That's it. Not that they are really doing any good for me now. In fact, they are usually more of a burden because they take up space that could be used for other things. Even if I have lost interest in the collection, I can't throw them out because I have invested a great deal of money in it and don't want to lose my investment.
These are some of the things that God has showed to me about my heart as I have been cleaning out. I didn't think God really cared about all my stuff. But in the process of doing this, He really revealed to me what was in my heart.
This is why the discipline of simplicity can be very freeing. When we let go of the things that clutter our lives, we loosen our attachment to the things that can weigh us down. Because the fact is, we are not made to settle here. This life is but a taste of the greater things to come. My things tie me too strongly to this world and distract me from the truth that my real life is in Christ.
In today's culture, we have bought into the belief that this life is all there is. So we settle in, surround ourselves with every luxury, and clutter our days with experiences, activities and things that fill us with a temporary satisfaction. But as long as we hold on to these things, we will not have hands to receive the better things that Jesus has to offer us. Like the rich young ruler, the command to go and sell everything so we can have treasure in heaven makes no sense if this life is all there is.
With simplicity also comes clarity, focus and generosity. I could use more of that. Can you?
What can you let go of today?
For newsletter subscribers, check out the page for today's journal for ways we can simplify, if not in our material possessions, in our lifestyle.