Uncluttering Our Lives
“. . . that you also aspire to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you, that you may walk properly toward those who are outside, and that you may lack nothing” (1 Thessalonians 4:11,12).
LIFE HAS A WAY OF BECOMING MORE AND MORE COMPLICATED, AND THERE IS A NEED FOR US TO STEP BACK PERIODICALLY AND SIMPLIFY THE WAY WE ARE LIVING. Like a garage or an attic, life tends to pick up clutter. We add activities and possessions and concerns to ourselves so frequently that it’s hard for us to see how piled up and confused our affairs are becoming. As far as our spiritual lives are concerned, one of the most helpful things we can do is go through the “attic” of our lifestyles, perhaps once or twice a year, and deliberately clean out the clutter. We should get rid of anything that does not helpfully and actively contribute to what is really important. This means having the courage to get rid of many “things” we’ve acquired because we thought they might be useful. If, however, they’ve not actually been useful to our priorities after a reasonable time, we need to get rid of them.
In her wonderful At Home in Mitford, novelist Jan Karon has Homeless Hobbes, a hermit who lives Thoreau-like in the woods, say, “Sometimes you have to gag on fancy before you can appreciate the plain, th’ way I see it.” Hobbes had been a high-powered advertising executive before he “gagged on fancy” and discovered the value of the plain life in his simple cabin. “For too many years,” said Hobbes, “I ate fancy, I dressed fancy, I talked fancy. A while back, I decided to start talkin’ th’ way I was raised t’ talk, and for th’ first time in forty years, I can understand what I’m sayin’.” The point here is not that the fancy or sophisticated lifestyle is wrong or inherently undesirable, but rather that there are some real values to the simple life that we often fail to recognize until we’ve overdosed on the complications that go with “fancy.”
The very worst disadvantage of the cluttered life is that being at peace and growing in our relationship with God become almost impossible. Perhaps there are a few who could manage such a juggling act, but not many of us can do so. God’s work requires us to be engaged in life’s activities, but growing deep roots in God’s character requires solitude and silence.
“Devotional progress comes best to those who live a plain, simple life” (Lawrence Scupoli).