I have a deep desire for order and simplicity, yet my life runs over with illegitimate necessities – with stuff.
My closet is specked with the unworn, unmended, stained and ill-fitted. My attic holds dusty things forgotten in the last move, as does our garage and certain places in our shop.
I couldn’t tell you what’s under my bed, but I know there’s something – an empty, plastic box, I think, just in case something needs stored. I have them in the attic, too. Empty and plastic and able to hold whatever, because there’s always a whatever that you might need to store for whenever.
What does it say about me (us? you, too?) that I buy empty plastic to store empty trinkets to use on my somedays and fill with my maybe-treasures? What, spiritually, does that say?
Build bigger barns. “So he said, ‘I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build greater, and there I will store all my crops and my goods.” Luke 12:18 NKJV
We fill boxes and check boxes and label boxes so that we feel prepared, secure, safe; but I’m kinda tired of living a life that’s preparing for the somedays. Too much is happening right now.
Not because my kids need to be in fear or live guilty for enjoying the pleasures of home, not at all that. I would much rather they learn to act out of empathy, faithfulness, knowledge, and joy, than out of an obligation to “do the right thing”.
The best I can do right now, as a parent, is to lay the world out before my kids and let them have a chance to act in their own unique way – which may be simply to pray, which is to keep remembering, which is better than blissful ignorance.
They might learn to be more thankful. They might want to know more about Syria and its people. They might not care as much as I want them to, but if I don’t purpose to present these issues to them, they’re not going to find them on their own. The world will make sure they are distracted and distraught over trivial things. Like stuff.
There is tragedy around every square corner of this globe – some far away and enough right in your own life to keep you forever occupied.
We have to ask the someday questions:
- What is necessary?
- What makes life bearable in the midst of turmoil?
- What needs downsized in order to upsize the joy of living?
- What would it be like to live without this?
- And how much could we give if we only had what we needed and only bought what was necessary?
What does our stuff have to do with any of it?
I think the best results are obtained by people who work quietly away at limited objectives, such as the abolition of the slave trade, or prison reform, or factory acts, or tuberculosis, not by those who think they can achieve universal justice, or health, or peace. I think the art of life consists in tackling each immediate evil as well as we can. – CS Lewis, Why I am Not a Pacifist
Sorting through my excess of stuff shows me all kinds of not-nice things about myself. I store stuff because I’m too lazy to deal with it properly. I store things because I’m afraid that I might need them one day. I pack items away for somedays that never come and I wouldn’t grab a single plastic box if the worst came to our family.
As I look at my stuff, I work on remembering what’s important.
The “most immediate evil” is that I might forget. That I might shrug my shoulders, go about my sorting and purging, and live as though this is the biggest place in the world and I am queen of it.
If I forget that saving time and money and space is not for me alone; if I forget that the world is filled with big problems in small places; if I forget that freely I have received; then the most immediate evil is my own greed and apathy.
I’m not able to hop on a plane and solve anyone’s crisis. Right in front of me are enough evils to face, and if I go about my life remembering the bigger picture of this suffering world, I will find ways to turn my junk into treasure for someone else.