There’s a trend out there right now that has totally piqued my interest. Minimalism is sweeping the blogosphere with a rapidity rivaling that of a disease sweeping through a village. Simplicity is the new way of life. Less is more. Less debt equals more financial freedom. Less junk food equals more health. Less time tending to stuff equals more time experiencing life.
As a recovering over-the-top spender and collector of debt and all things material, I totally buy into all of this. I’ve written about my laser sharp focus that snaps into action when I go after the cluttered rooms around my house. Like a tornado I purge and pitch with wild abandonment to the utter horror of the rest of my family. I’ve mentioned in the past how I would give anything to pair down my stuff to only that which fits in a backpack. And with the loyalty of a disciple, I follow the small house movement in silent envy of those who pack their lives into homemade houses of 300 square feet or less. Yes, I know I’m weird.
The blogosphere is pregnant with promises of grocery bills being slashed in half through the magic of couponing, price comparing and tailoring a menu based on sales in the weekly flyers. Having spent hours culling the wisdom of these blogging superheroes I have been able to whittle down my grocery bill to an impressive $92 a week for a family of four. This includes a teenage boy who would eat paint off a wall if he were hungry enough. I’ve also read the testimonials of those who’ve taken the challenge posed by Project 333. The freedom that comes with pairing down your wardrobe to 33 items that you wear over and over for 3 months has intrigued me to the point of attempting this challenge myself. No more agonizing over what to wear every morning.
I say all of this because it occurred to me that besides chasing simplicity for the sake of order in my life, a pattern has emerged. That is, that when life feels out of control I immediately go after my stuff, my budget and my space. On one hand it makes complete sense. Despite my utter disdain for clutter, be it financial or otherwise, it’s there at every turn. It is the antithesis to calm and order, and despite my best efforts it reproduces itself overnight. So I go after it with a vengeance knowing that I may not be able to control the people or circumstances around me, but I sure can control my immediate physical space and my spending habits all in an effort to obtain the often-elusive calm I am seeking.
But then when I stop, admire my work and wonder why I’m still all jammed up inside, it hits me that organizing and decluttering physical space is great, but to stop there is shortsighted. If it’s inner calm I’m seeking, all the outward efforts toward it will never accomplish what a good inner purging can.
Spiritual clutter does more to derail us than any amount of clutter lying around our house. When our hearts and minds are cluttered with things like fear, anxiety, discontentment and worry, that’s what we listen to, and that’s what gets our attention. It’s a lot harder to hear the still small voice of God when the other stuff is screaming at us.
A mind concentrating on God at all times and in all circumstances is a mind at peace. This is a tough one for me. In fact, I’ve often thought if I weren’t a believer, I would be an easy target for the New Age gurus out there with their seductive promises of empty minds and calm inner selves. I’d spend an entire weekend on some retreat seeking empty-mindedness through meditation and chanting. Anything to quiet the noise in my head.
“You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you. Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord, the Lord, is the Rock eternal” (Isaiah 26:3,4 NIV).
In his commentary, Matthew Henry writes,
“Good principles fixed in the head will produce good resolutions in the heart and good practices in the life.”
Just like a professional organizer gives steps and tools to creating a calm space the Bible gives us steps and tools to achieve this same outcome in our heads.
Good principles such as “seek first the kingdom of God,” “guard your heart for it is the well-spring of life,” value others above yourselves,” “do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths,” all of them contribute to mental peace in one form or another. How different would I look if I replaced anger, anxiety, frustration and self-pity with these things? How would my life change if I let God untether my brain from the strongholds of worry and fear?
A spiritual cleaning would go a long way in ushering in mental peace. To spend time purging the junk in my soul with the same amount of ferocity used in purging my house would benefit not just me but everyone around me. Maybe then I wouldn’t be so quick to throw out the physical treasures, and my kids could keep some of their stuff!
So I have to ask, is your brain cluttered with the unnecessary junk of the world? Would you give anything to trade in the circus in your head for something more akin to this?
“And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:7).
Jesus is peace.