Space, Clutter, and Spiritual Formation

Sometimes, though, space wasn’t just used, it was overused. Often, it was overused.

Looking around the room, busy with a degree of use in the feel of things spread throughout, a fan spinning idly, churning air to create a sense of cool, and chairs enough in the small room to seat a dozen, he turned his eyes to the lake beyond the house.

He wanted to space of the small lake to open his mind and imagination to the soul longing to get out from his chest. It didn’t have enough room here to breathe, think, or let go, it needed to quiet, still and empty expanse of the water.

He considered places he had been, stayed, lived, and gone. He liked cities, but felt that being in a city was forgetting what lay inside himself. It was so busy, so crowded, so cluttered, that his soul shrank in the confines of a city street. “Who could be a person in such a place?” he muttered within himself, “who you are has no space to become itself.”

It was interesting to him that as he wrote about space and clutter, he wrote in short, snipped paragraphs. He was not taking the time he thought he should, perhaps it was the coffee, or the excitement of writing about something dear to his heart, but he thought maybe it was only that it is a simple idea. It isn’t necessary to tease out and play with meanings, only to tell what needs to be known.

Many places are just as crowded and cluttered as cities, even though they are suburban or even rural. Bars, coffee houses, cars and homes are all stained with the debris that takes takes up space. He considered anything unnecessary as something that takes up space, most things were unnecessary, so there was, in his estimation, a lot of debris in the world. He cringed with every handout handed him in classes and work meetings, wondering where it would go, how would he file and keep it so it did not clutter his desk, and ultimately his mind.

“Homes tell us a lot about ourselves,” he thought, musingly. “Often, it seems, we feel a need to fill every space, every corning, every nook of our homes.” He didn’t know why people did this, perhaps it was a visual thing? He considered how this showed the need to not waste what was had.

Sometimes, though, space wasn’t just used, it was overused. Often, it was overused.

Papers piled high on desks, books stacked on tables and food that would never be used overflowing a refrigerator. Boxes of “just in case” items filled a basement, to be used once every decade or two, and cars were the same. Change piled high in center consoles, baubles dangled from rear view mirrors, trunks packed with equipment for some sport out of season 8 months of the year. Garages and sheds stored incredible amounts of things, often requiring a deft touch to close the door or park without scratching the car.

“Where do people live, with all this stuff?” he wondered, amused and yet also fearful. “Their soul has no room to grow.”

He knew that many people had tidy spaces, but busy lives. They cluttered their schedules instead of their living rooms, keeping themselves busy with meetings, appointments, to-do lists, and the idol of accomplishment. There was little in their home, little in their fridge, and their car was clean, but that was only because their time was cluttered and overused.  They lived as if they would not live if they didn’t do all the things, all the time, every day striving and trying and searching and pushing and wishing and hoping, and it stifled them. They were drowning in the clutter of their own life.

The truth is, he knew, that our outer life reveals the inner life, and if our outer life is busy and cluttered, so is our soul. A soul that is overburdened cannot possibly please God, because it can’t even concentrate on Him. Nor can that soul find peace, how does it rest when everywhere it looks there is stuff? “Let me look outside,” this soul says, but finds that there are many passersby to watch, “I will sit quietly in my chair,” it then begins, but pictures, books, papers and machines distract it. “I am lucky to even have this time,” the soul says to itself, as it considers its busy schedule, “I don’t often have to show my owner who he is.” It tries to give the person to whom it belongs some sense of being, but the man or woman rejects it and begins to busy themselves again.

He considered the only work that was truly worth doing was that which allows our souls to shape us into whom God has created us to be. God has given us His breath of life, His Spirit, and shapes us through that using our spirit, our soul. We cannot hear the subtle whisper during a rainstorm, and yet we distract ourselves incessantly with distractions galore. Why?

“Because our souls show us our longing and pain, which draw us into the Father,” he decided. “The Son treats these wounds, and the Spirit reveals them.” It isn’t easy to become still and let the inner tumult of our lives come to a rest, we are like shaken snow globes, the snow dancing around and looking active, and often beautiful, but hiding the image behind. Only as the globe rests, and the snow falls, do we see the house and snowman and kids ice skating on the lake. We cannot see ourselves with all this snow flying around us, we must escape this clutter.

Then we take 5 or 10 minutes to be silent, and find that nothing has changed, and why should it have? He wished people would take hours or days to be still, to begin clearing the clutter of their lives away, to free their schedules, to drive in silence, to want to hear God speak to them through their soul more than anything else. “God has made us beautiful, if only we could become simple enough to hear him tell us,” he thought.

He remembered when he began to let go of things, giving away his gaming system, giving away many of his clothes, and trying to let go of whatever he didn’t need. He knew that he was on the verge of another “life purge,” selling and giving away things he wouldn’t use and didn’t need. Golf clubs, multiple guitars, clothes, books that were read and wouldn’t be re-read, and many other things. His mind needed the rest when he looked at his things.

“Because,” he considered, “when there is no space in our lives, how much can God fill us with? If we do not have a place for what God wants to show us, we will ignore it.” He wanted to have as much space for God as possible, and that meant freeing up his time and space to accept it. That meant simplifying his life. That meant decluttering. It meant letting his soul grow and stretch to accept all that God had to offer, and that meant letting go of so much more.

One thought on “Space, Clutter, and Spiritual Formation

  1. Know the feeling… What we break to bend, what we leave alone to mend, what we let go of for a chance we might fly. Given the chance though if you could start again would you ignore the soul and tell the heart no you lie? Not i.


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