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Simplicity

I have a confession to make. I know it may come as a shock to some, and a disappointment to others, but to those who know me best, this confession has been a long time coming.

I… am… a… clutter-bug.

Whew! I said it! It’s now out in the open for all to see. It seems wherever I go clutter surrounds me. Even now as I type, my desk is cluttered with books, papers, paper-clips, two empty cups (why do I need two?) and scraps of paper with various tidbits of information scrawled on them (often on both sides). Beside my recliner at home is a stack of books (I can never read just one at a time), a magazine or two, remotes, a stack of mail from the previous couple of days, and if memory serves me correctly, a screwdriver (don’t ask me why, it’s just there.) When you add four kids to the mix, a busy life with all sorts of demands and a hobby that requires lots of painting and drawing supplies, what you get is a mess.

But lately I’ve been wrestling with the idea of simplicity. Some of the early church leaders considered simplicity a spiritual discipline. So what is simplicity? My take on it is this: paring down your life to only the things you use regularly. You could even take it a step farther by paring life down to only the things you need. The discipline part of this is easy to understand, especially to someone like me who is able to function amidst the detritus of a cluttered life. It takes discipline to put things away, to not buy new things to add to the mix and to throw away things you no longer need or use. But what part of this is spiritual?

Let me rewind a couple of weeks. God blessed my family this year with a very good Christmas. The kids got all sorts of stuff from parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, etc. I got a brand new recliner and we were able to give generously to our parents who have given us so much. But as I looked at all the stuff my kids got, it occurred to me we would need to get rid of older things to make room for new. As my wife and I began organizing and sorting old from new, used from neglected and superfluous from the necessary, we decided we needed to do the same with our things. Initially this decision was made to wage war against the materialistic demons that wage war in our culture. Things are great to own, but too often we become owned by them. But as we have continued to ‘downsize’ throughout the house it occurred to me, the more stuff I get rid of, the more room I have for God; the louder my proclamation that He is my sustainer and I need nothing apart from Him. It was one of those ‘Ah-Ha!’ moments as I realized what God has been trying to tell me over the last several months.

So as I threw away the 10-year old Sports-Illustrateds (the ones with the Yankees celebrating another World Series), and the stack of ball-caps that I had not worn in the last 3 years, and as we packed up clothes to donate, we did so as an act of worship. It was, and is, our declaration of dependence on God and God alone.

Now, I just need to clean off this desk.

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