Decluttering as a spiritual exercise
I want to share a small part of my personal journey which has influenced how I see decluttering and minimalism as a spiritual exercise.
My French husband and I married in 1999 and moved around quite a bit: we lived overseas, we lived in Cleveland, Ohio, we lived in Orlando, Florida, then back to Cleveland. In 2007, we both started feeling the urge that we needed to move back to France. It wasn’t a desire, because, although he had taken a seven year leave of absence from his teaching position, his job was not something he longed to return to.
I had a great job, making more money than I would ever see again in my life. I adored my job, my apartment, my boss, my life.
Nonetheless, we both started feeling like we needed to move back to France. In order to test this feeling, we prayed about it and still couldn’t shake it.
So we made a list of everything that would have to happen in order for us to be able to move: My husband had been in Law School, and we had no small amount of debt in that in regard. We didn’t want to carry that debt forever, so we decided that before we moved, we would have to be debt-free. What would we do with our car? Our piano?
We agreed that if we moved, we would not be shipping anything. But what would we do with all our stuff? This was not just stuff, either. This was the accumulation of our lifetime together, which, at the time was only eight years…but we had lived through some pretty amazing times. Everything was full of memories and affection.
I struggled to distance myself emotionally from my stuff. Dealing with it was not as easy as decluttering according to what gave me joy or not: I really loved all this stuff.
Another Red Line
I am a rules person. I need a non-squishy red line as a limit to help me make progress towards my goal. My goal in this case was getting to France. What was keeping me from this goal was all of my stuff.
Some neighbors upstairs had welcomed twin baby girls in the months prior to our decision to move. My husband and I made them dinner once a week and took it up during those early months. I wasn’t a baby person (something that remained true even when I had my own babies), so short of offering to babysit, this seemed a doable way to help.
As a thank you, they gave us an exquisite teapot and tea cup set. The inside was aqua turquoise, the outside looked like stone….oh, they were so beautiful. I remember thinking, “I’ll have to make room for this in my suitcase for the move.”
That very night, I had a dream. I had a dream that I was arriving in France, walking through the streets of the town where we would be moving. I had a gigantic pack on my back, like Santa, as big as a house. It was hard to walk, I kind of waddled through the city streets. It was cumbersome, but I was running late for something so I tried to run. In my hand, in the dream, I was holding the teapot, waddle-running through the streets.
As I woke up, I heard as clear as day the words, “Take nothing with you.”
I thought about this all day that day. I kept seeing myself running, holding that teapot with all my earthly possessions on my back.
I happened to open my Bible to Luke during the course of that day, and read this:
When Jesus had called the Twelve together, he gave them power and authority… He told them: “Take nothing for the journey–no staff, no bag, no bread, no money, no extra tunic. (Luke 9: 1, 3)
By this time, my husband and I had started to view our urge to go back to France as something of a spiritual imperative. As if this move was something God wanted from us and something he was equipping us to do. Reading that verse hit home in a searing way. Would God ever ask us to leave everything behind in order to pursue the call that we felt in our hearts?
Yes. Yes he would.
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