Just recently, I finished my first year back as a working (outside the home) girl. I am a speech language pathologist, and last school year, I worked in a school district with kids from age two-and-a-half to 12. As I came home with boxes of colored pens, folders, and documents to shred, I found myself craving simplicity. All the stuff coming back into my cluttered home office for the summer felt oppressive. OK, but true confessions: On one hand, I wanted to throw everything out, and on the other hand, I wanted to get matching office stuff with all the labels and tchotchkes, so my office would look cute next year. Target Dollar Spot anyone?
Also, recently, my husband and I came home from a weekend of cleaning out my in laws’ home of 42 years. We filled two dumpsters in two days. Yes, we found a few treasures, but mostly? Just stuff. Stuff for the garbage, stuff for goodwill, and stuff that maybe we could sell. We’ll be back in a couple of months because we only scratched the surface. So exhausting.
My makeup counter and craft/quilting/gift wrapping areas of the home are always in need of reorganizing. But probably what they really need more than organizing is simplifying. Purging. Choosing what is the most important and letting go of the rest.
For those of you who can relate to me, why do we do this??? Why do we fill a God-sized hole with stuff? Well, I think it honestly comes down to the Fall, with the OG sin. Adam and Eve had EVERYTHING–everything they could have possibly wanted or needed, and while they were in communion with God, life was simple and abundant, all at once. But once Eve’s eyes were off her Creator, she and Adam succumbed to the biggest mistake of their lives—believing Satan’s lie that they could fill a God-sized hole without God.
We followers of Jesus live in the tension of being reconciled and right with God, but also are a product of the human sinful nature which was passed down from our ancestors. The hope of life in heaven and the peace and love that only God gives grow from our relationship with Jesus. We know every tear will one day be wiped clean and we will live in perfect harmony with our Creator. The pain and suffering and anxiety and stress we endure now is temporary, but I’ll be honest. That eternal mindset is not usually where I park my brain. Even though I read my Bible nearly daily, pray often, and really do love Jesus, my sinful nature fights me everyday to stay focused on Him.
As I unpack my walk as a Christian, I find that even here, I often try to fill that God-sized hole without Him. Oh, it looks okay…maybe I do a reading plan or a Bible study, or volunteer for this or that ministry. All good things. In fact, sometimes I spend so much time learning about what other people say about God that I forget to be with God. For me at least, it’s STILL so easy to be caught up in the deceiver’s lies about being a better Christian and needing to listen to that latest podcast to increase my faith. Yep, Bible studies, missions, and ministries are all great and have their place, but they are no substitute for constant communion with God. Without simplifying my life with God at the center, there is no way each good thing I do in His name won’t eventually feel oppressive, like the physical clutter of extra stuff in the craft room or extra pounds on the body.
Please don’t hear me say that I think Bible studies, missions, and ministry opportunities are bad. Absolutely not! But they MUST be tied to the Vine to be fragrant fruits of the Spirit. I have found that there is so much noise, especially these days, around what an Evangelical Christian should look like. For me, that’s where the simplification process for the rest of my life must begin. Do I sound like a pilgrim, who is trying to figure out her next steps? I hope so. I don’t have it all sorted, friends, and much like my craft room, my faith is undergoing significant clutter reduction and I am asking God to help me choose the most important things. I get too overwhelmed trying to be the poster child for Jesus. And what’s more, I don’t think He’s asking that of me. He knows that though I am fearfully and wonderfully made, my mind is limited—I’m a perimenopausal gal with sensory processing issues after all! 😊 I need Him to break it down. I cannot simplify my life without him. I will choose unwisely every single time.
Fortunately, He does just that.
So these are the nuggets on which I stand:
Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. ~John 15:4-5 ESV
When I abide in God, I recognize that He is my first and greatest and ONLY lifeline. It means that I am in such community with Him, Jesus, and Holy Spirit that I learn to discern what is distraction and deceit and what is truth. Close community with God is my only way to contentment—my only way to know what is most important and what can be let go.
As far as the rest of my theology, it rests upon on the following:
“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” ~Matthew 22:36-40 NIV
As an educational speech language pathologist, I am a teacher of sorts. My students would be overwhelmed and discouraged if I threw their whole treatment plan at them at once. But, if I build relationship with them, so that they trust me, and if I give them the most important bits each time for them to absorb, chances are, they will progress, and I will see carry over outside the therapy room. In a similar way, I’ll be overwhelmed and discouraged if I try to declutter every aspect of my life all at once. I rest in the process of resting in my Abba and in trusting Him to fill the holes in my heart.