Our basement is a very interesting part of our house. It seems no matter what system we put in place, in some manner of time, this space comes back to what may just be its natural state of existence: cluttered and filled to the gills with stuff. Mostly toys, but also just lots of... stuff.
One day I decided to go through the stuff down there and move about half the toys to the spare room. I was rather amazed how much easier it was to keep it clean when there was simply less stuff. My conclusion was that one of the biggest keys to keeping your stuff organized is: have less stuff. I wondered if there was some kind of spiritual principle there.
In college, we used to play a game our campus minister taught us. He would pick a random object and say, "Make up a spiritual analogy - go!" For example, in the cafeteria he might point to a salt shaker and ask us to come up with a spiritual principle that the salt shaker illustrated.
Now if I were to play this game with my room-cleaning experience, at first, maybe the analogy seems obvious. Just like our physical surroundings are easier to manage with less stuff lying around, so also we need less stuff in our inner selves.
But how do you get rid of "stuff" in your soul? And if you do, how do you keep it from coming back?
In our house, there is this very mysterious thing that happens... somehow stuff keeps accumulating! It's not enough to say, well I'm just going to have less stuff. It's an ongoing process. We could probably set up some sustainable routines to help. For example, every June and December I will go through this room and get rid of the extra stuff. Or maybe, I will tidy up this room every night. If we tidy up regularly, we will notice if extra stuff appears.
Applying this principle to our inner lives, it means we can't say, I'm gonna get rid of all this extra stuff once and boom, I'll be done for good. If major decluttering is a work of God's Spirit within me, then most likely - if it's anything like how a house works - He's going to be doing that over and over again. And He probably needs my cooperation.
Maybe the bigger question is, what does having less stuff even look like on the inside? It's not like I have an inner soul bag where I can toss the extra stuff, so what do I do?
The truth is, what I'm surrounded with has a way of entering my soul. Perhaps, then, it would help for me to "take in" less stuff? How many podcasts am I listening to? Books am I reading? Conversations am I having? Minutes am I scrolling on social media? The details will look different for each of us. But it may be worthwhile to consider how much stuff I'm consuming and then pray, Lord open my eyes to see what outside things are getting into me and cluttering my insides. Show me how to put those aside. Give me the courage I need to stop taking them in.
[Side note, my prayer is that God would use the words on this blog to help declutter rather than add clutter to your soul. I hope and pray you always feel absolutely free to step away, for however long is needed, if you ever feel like my voice here is becoming clutter for your soul.]
Of course one may go too far with this "have less stuff" mentality. If I am constantly striving to get rid of all the stuff that's cluttering my soul - I might make myself crazy. I probably need to embrace the fact that I am never going to achieve a perfect state of inner decluttered-ness. Rather, maybe what matters is that my heart is willing to stay open to God throughout the process.
In this season, we're praying especially for our upcoming Serve-a-Thon. This active day of service is something we do physically. I wonder, might there be opportunities to play the "name-the-spiritual-principle" game while we're serving? Just like this "have less stuff" principle was something I could see and experience that led me to a new understanding of a deeper truth, we can pray that the same thing would happen to our students. As they're serving and doing hands-on, active things, let's pray that deeper spiritual truths become real to them. That something clicks in their minds about how God has created them to serve - or whatever it is God wants to show them (or the people they're serving) - on that day.
Whether or not you take part in this year's Serve-a-Thon, may all of us make it a habit in whatever activity we are doing to say, What can we learn about God, about ourselves, and about the way He has designed us, through the things we're seeing and doing?
Maybe there is something more we could learn relating to "have less stuff", but I don't know yet what it is. Is there something else there that I can't see? I would love to hear your thoughts, if you have any, on how we might apply "have less stuff" to Serve-a-Thon or to our regular lives. In the meantime, let's keep praying together.
Pray with me...
... Father, please use our everyday lives and experiences to speak to us and teach us
Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Matthew 6:26
... Lord, please bring about growth within the ACSD community through the Serve-a-Thon
Instead, we will lovingly follow the truth at all times—speaking truly, dealing truly, living truly—and so become more and more in every way like Christ who is the Head of his body, the Church. Under his direction, the whole body is fitted together perfectly, and each part in its own special way helps the other parts, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love. Ephesians 4:15 (TLB)
... God, teach us what it may mean for us to "have less stuff" in our lives
Train me, God, to walk straight; then I’ll follow your true path. Put me together, one heart and mind; then, undivided, I’ll worship in joyful fear. Psalm 86:11 (MSG)
Thanks for taking the time to read this blog and pray for Alliance Christian School District! Lord willing, I plan to publish a new blog post weekly on Wednesdays throughout the school year. Feel free to subscribe (at the bottom of this page) if you'd like to be notified each time a new blog post has been published. We also have a prayer team that is always open for new pray-ers to join. If you'd like to learn more, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
~ Carrie Warner, ACSD Prayer Team Coordinator
Soli Deo Gloria To God alone be the glory