"Things can sustain us, allow us to express our creativity and help strengthen relationships. Things can also distract us from doing what we want with our lives."
On Day 8 of our Trek, we take a look at a new theme: simplicity. Last week we looked at how to find joy in enough. This week we are forced to dig deeper, to tighten our belts and contemplate how to live more simply. Today we have been challenged to think about what gives our life meaning.
I first think about my family - my husband, my two daughters. Spending time building a relationship with them, loving them. The time I spend listening to my husband and anticipating his needs. The time I spend teaching my daughters about God, about the routines of life, about our values as a family. That certainly gives me meaning. I think about activities we do in our intentional community - simple things.
Last week our family went down to the Dakota House, a neighborhood "safe place" where kids from low-income families can hang out. We participated in the S.O.S. (Sharing Our Skills) club. Ericlee shared his skills by giving a talk on nutrition and leading some fitness games for the young people. Several friends from our church and our kids joined us for this "service project." Just hanging out with those kids gave us all a good feeling inside. It wasn't hard. You could see how they needed that love and attention.
Every morning my husband and 4-year-old take a "prayer walk." They walk around our block and pray together. Meilani is usually wearing her PJs and has bed head. If it were me, I would feel this need to pull myself or my daughter together to be presentable. But Ericlee doesn't care about those things. The two of them often visit our neighbor on a different block who is a master gardener. He's often outside tending to some of his plants in the early morning. Roderigo is so friendly and treats us all like family now. I think just taking time to talk to people gives us meaning. There are so many times when it's easy to just pull our cars in our garages and avoid talking to anyone. I know I've done it in my haste to get on to the next task.
When we really think about it we know in our heart of hearts that it's people and relationships that give our life meaning. I don't think we are a family that has lots of "toys." We don't own a lot of fancy electronics or clothes. But we still have a lot to downsize. Our shelves are still teaming with stuff. Our cupboards are overflowing with appliances and things. I am ready to move forward in getting rid of some of this.
But that's just the first layer of stuff. What would happen if someone asked you to sell one of your cars? Or if you were challenged to sell your house to move into a smaller space? The thought just makes most of us nervous. It's inconvenient. We have been challenged to both of these things in the last year. It certainly has been a journey even though we know from our experience that we can still have a fulfilled life with fewer things.
As the opening quote suggests, having "things" like a house or car is not bad. This isn't about making people feel guilty. We have hosted countless gatherings in our home, made it a place where friends and family and visit, rest and hang out. We have an open door policy, which means sharing our space in community. But for this new season of life we feel God calling us to give up some of those things so we would have more resources to share with others. We didn't anticipate how painful that process might be until we were actually in the thick of it.
Why is that thought so daunting? How can we break the strange-hold our things have on us and move toward a lifestyle our beliefs suggest?