In my previous post I wrote about simplifying my life and my mind by becoming aware of the extraneous activities and preoccupations that, instead of enhancing my life, have actually become a burden to my mind, body and spirit. How do I determine what is extraneous? How do I know what is essential and needful and what is not? The example from my previous post is rather obvious. The story that my mind was telling me was a total waste of my time and energy. But, as I look around my life -- and when I say life I mean my home, my activities, my work, my parenting, my partnering, my prayer life, my church, my relationships, my thoughts, my struggles, all of my life –it becomes very difficult to know what is essential and needful and what is not.
I used to think that anything that was good could not be extraneous. Anything that brings more light into the world must be extremely necessary. And yet, what if even what is good in my life has become a burden to my spirit? I don’t just mean a burden because the schedule is pretty full or I would prefer to curl up on the couch with a book. I mean that my life feels too heavy. So what needs to go?
I begin with the externals. I go around my house sorting out drawers, cupboards and closets picking up one thing after the other and asking, Is it needful? Can I live without it? When was the last time that I used it? Will I even miss it when it is gone? And here’s a question that I read a long time ago in a book about simplifying: If I keep it, will it change my life? If I let it go, will it change my life? I think that I should also add, will it change someone else’s life? It may seem silly to ask whether a sweater or a pair of earrings changes one’s life, but it really works. Because, of course, sometimes a sweater really can change your life.
I have a jewelry tree that sits on my dresser. Fifteen or twenty pairs of earrings hang on it. There are several small bowls that sit scattered across the dresser top holding at least that many more. For weeks now, as I walk past those various receptacles, I have felt encumbered by them. For me, it’s no longer fun to try to choose a pair of earrings out of that vast array every morning. I want to have just a few pairs that I can wear with pretty much everything. So, I gave many of them away, and put the rest away in a cupboard, not quite ready to actually put them out of my life forever. I will go back in another 6 months or so and see what else I can part with.
That little jewelry tree holding beautiful earrings is a metaphor for all of my inner life and for my activities and ministries. There are so many dazzling possibilities out there and in here. But, I cannot hold them all and I feel that right now in my life I am being called to particularly scale back, paring things down to the bare essentials. There are dreams and desires that are calling to be birthed in me. There is still some healing that needs to be done. And they require spaciousness. Spaciousness on the outside and on the inside.
Will these dreams, desires and healing change my life. I KNOW that they will. Will they change someone else’s life? Will it change the world?