Minimal

The month of January is usually full of resolutions and thoughts about a new year and new goals. Most people want to lose weight, be a better person, read the Bible, be a better friend, write that book that we’ve always wanted to write, to exercise, the list goes on.

I love the start of a new year. The cold air whispers hope into my mind that swirls with new possibilities and ideas. I have longed for the last few months to make a new start with a right focus.

I have been so distracted. I have spent valuable time on social media that should have been spent on more meaningful pursuits. I have spent time watching random YouTube videos that both dull my mind and make me feel mildly like I’m missing out on life somewhere else while I miss out my life right here and right now. I have avoided dealing with painful emotions and stress by eating and watching Netflix instead of sitting down, studying my Bible, writing, and praying. I have muted my struggle with self-image by purchasing new, “exciting” items that give me a rush when I buy them that wears off within days.

While Husbandman and I were on Christmas break, we watched the documentary “Minimalism” that sparked a lot of conversation. (I’m so thankful that we both work in higher education and get such generous breaks.) The movie follows two men and their associates who have dedicated their lives to sharing their journey to actively pursuing less in a quest to find satisfaction in their own lives. According to their website, “Minimalism is a tool to rid yourself of life’s excess in favor of focusing on what’s important- so you can find happiness, fulfillment, and freedom.” (source: https://www.theminimalists.com/minimalism/). They say that they’re ultimately pursuing happiness while they work to keep their material possessions to a minimum of the most useful tools.

At first glance, that sounds perfectly sane. Happiness is nice. I like being happy. Who doesn’t want to be happy?

In her book “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing”, Marie Kondo encourages her readers to discard items that don’t “spark joy”.

Possessions “sparking joy” sounds great.

But is the root of true happiness or even joy what I possess or what I do not possess? Is it seeking my happiness?

Minimalism and decluttering to pursue happiness joy on the surface sound Biblical. Christ Himself didn’t put effort into accumulating material possessions but trusted God to provide for His daily needs. But in modern-day culture, the main impetus of minimalism seems to be on wanting less things in order to live a more personally fulfilled life. That fulfillment is still self-centered. These are not inherently bad things, but they encourage people to pursue their own happiness and satisfaction outside of Christ.

I am a Christian; I have committed to following Christ. The root of my decisions to keep an item or discard it should not be my own happiness or perceived fulfillment. I want to determine how to live my life while pursuing a right-ordered heart. When asked what the greatest commandment was, Jesus answered:

“37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 22:37-40( ESV)

My greatest calling isn’t to pursue my satisfaction, even if that comes from service to others. I am to love God with all I am, and to love my neighbor as myself. I am, however, not exempt from living a personally intentional life. As a Christian, I should be careful in my consumption of financial and material things; not dulling my senses to the emotions and needs of others and myself.

So how do I pursue a life that honors God and doesn’t fall into the trap of minimalism for self gratification?

That’s my plan. That’s what I want to pursue this year “out loud” with you all: examining the motivation of my heart in light of God’s truth as I seek to live with minimal distractions. There is so much joy in pursuing the Lord. There is so much freedom.

As John the Baptist said about Christ when discussing his role in Christ’s ministry, “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30, ESV).

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A New Year

On December 31, 2013, Husband-Man fell asleep while we watched the Lion King. We had planned on going to a friend’s house to ring in the new year, but his stomach hurt so we stayed home. That stomach ache turned into months of pain, weight loss, visits to doctor’s offices, and eventually a diagnosis of autoimmune hepatitis. It heralded high medical bills, sleepless nights, and a year of waiting for changes and developments.

On December 31, 2014, Husband-Man and I watched four hours of Crocodile Dundee, ate pizza, and went to be early. As we lay in bed before falling asleep, we talked through this unexpected year that stretched us farther than we could ever have imagined, we talked about our hopes and dreams for the new year. We have big plans, and we’re looking forward to another year together of learning how God uses our rough spots to continue to point us to Him.

I am thrilled to see 2014 come to a close, but as we prayed last night and this morning and thanked God for our blessings that sprang to mind easily, I couldn’t help but think about the blessings that hurt the most. We thanked God not because of what we have, but because of who He is. We thanked Him not for what makes us feel comfortable, but that which makes us draw closer to Him. I praise God that we had the year that we had. We often comfort ourselves with Philippians 4:13, but often fail to take the verse in full context. In Philippians 4:10-13, Paul says:

10 But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at last your care for me has flourished again; though you surely did care, but you lacked opportunity. 11 Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: 12 I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. 13 I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

 

The hopes that I held in my heart for 2014 we not all met. In fact, most of them were answered with “wait”. Most of 2014 found us in great need of the Lord, and we were able to walk though the experience because God gave us the strength. God is good. God provides every day, and blessed my little family by leading us through pain and uncertainty. As you plan for 2015, know that God sees the plans that you hold dearly in your heart. And He loves you so much that He won’t give you everything that you want.

Happy New Year, everyone. May you be blessed by drawing nearer to God is all situations.