Less is So Much More
If you've ever heard the expressions "a little goes a long way", or "less is best" you know that moderation is vital to retaining what you have. Even the principle of de-cluttering centers around weeding out the unimportant and focusing on preserving what you have.
We all need food, but portion control seems to fall on deaf ears these days. Instead, getting more for your money often refers to having economy-size containers that boast saving you more money in the long-run, or else a gigantic meal at a restaurant that two or more people could easily share. What's wasted isn't always used.
In the technology world, the minute you buy something, it depreciates - because there will always be something else newer on the market to spend money on. And like a disease, people can't help themselves in getting their hands on the next big thing. It isn't a surprise, then, that stores selling second-hand items continue to turn tidy profits, with more than enough excess so that even they have to pitch what's left over!
Condition of the heart
What are "things"? By definition, they are objects, possessions, or entities. They can be people just as surely as they can be philosophies, books, movies, or money. When we think of "personal possessions/things" those are what we consider daily necessities. But in reality, how much of what we use is actually needed? What's really important?
"Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also" (Luke 12:34) captures the essence of what happens when we put stock in what we hold dear as "things." This holds true in the spiritual world, just as much as with the secular. For example, if our minds are not set on God, it is easy to see how we end up being slaves to the worldly items - in terms of how much we have, what they look like, and how they compare to the things belonging to others. That is when some spiritual de-cluttering must be done. Likewise, in the secular world, when we are consumed with work, money, fame, or self, each of those things work to crowd out the most important people in our lives, and so it is important to get priorities in order before being able to connect with others in meaningful ways.
Such de-cluttering, which can also be seen as how meaningful our relationships with God and others is, starts with the condition of our hearts. If self is carried with us in our daily walk, it is impossible to please God or put on His character, just as much as it is impossible to think of others if ego is in the way. Each time we pray, both in secret and among fellow believers, we are supposed to cast aside our selfish desires, cares, and hopes, knowing that what we will to be is not always what God intends to be in our best interest. It is most painful to acknowledge, and is much easier said than done to practice. We are always worried about the safety of loved ones, or having to pay our bills on time. We plan holidays and events, strive to be financially secure, and have to have insurance for our homes, cars, and our very lives, just so we can afford to maintain those "things", or be able to have compensation for their worth if they fail, are stolen, or fall victim to unlucky circumstances.
That is why we must start with a healthy heart. So, does this mean there is ever a time that we can break free of our "things" and focus on the truth of who God is and what He desires for us? At any given time, how raw are our prayers? That is, how much can we make them personal, even to the point of denying ourselves in the manner prescribed by our Lord? And how can we be authentic and successful in family relationships, business, and personal goals?
There are many disappointments in life, all linked with our desire to see them as permanent. In reality, nothing except God alone is eternal. It can be hard to quell the many voices inside your head that remind you of all you hold important when are supposed to be praying. We all have those Attention-Deficit moments where we would rather jump ahead to the next minute, rather than focus on what's at hand. This is even more apparent when we are pressed for time, or have a clock in view to remind us of what we could/should do instead. We get nowhere by trying to force God on ourselves in our time (or lack thereof). But we have everything to gain when we force ourselves to rearrange our time so that God is first. Self-sacrificing, not matter how little or how much, will always have its rewards. For example, say you sacrifice some sleep in order to get a quiet moment alone with God. It might be a struggle in the beginning, especially if it means going to bed earlier so that you aren't as tired in the morning, but eventually you reap the benefits: a closer walk with God, more time to get a jump-start on your day, and more restful sleep each night. Plus, you no longer have to compete with the other "things" in your life that take your attention away from God - such as other people who live with you, cleaning the house, getting ready for work or school, watching the news, or anything else that might occupy your time.
In your daily life, if you want to be productive, prioritizing your tasks and controlling your things before they control you is key. Do you really need to fill up every open bit of space in your cabinets, or have your desk stacked with organizers in which you still can't find what you're looking for when you need it?
As Creator, God created everyone and everything on Earth. We serve Him, not the creations. The term to "serve" others is not to be confused with "worship", as is often times the case. Worship is for us to do in exercising our faith in God - holding Him in highest esteem, being obedient and self-sacrificing, even to the point of death. BUT we also are to be self-sacrificing toward others, and in that way worship God. In that sense, we are serving. But in so-doing, we must be careful not to put others or possessions in place of God. Instead, we are to love one another, not only as Jesus loves us (see John 13:34), but also as how we would want to be treated. "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength'" and "‘Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these." - Mark 12:30-31
And what is truly loving ourselves? It sounds so prideful when put that way, doesn't it?! Yet it is actually not putting our needs over others, but sharing the joy we feel of knowing that while we were still sinners, Christ forgave us. When we are filled with that joy and love and awe, we are able to treat others in such a way that they will experience how much God loves them and feel as if God reached out to them individually. So despite this imperfect world, and our imperfect actions and our imperfect prayers, we lean on Jesus to be merciful of our ignorant ways.
Loving ourselves also means respecting what we have without wanting more than what we can use. It means not wearing out people by neglecting their feelings or not valuing their time, and it means only taking just enough material goods to survive off of so as not to waste the excess so that it becomes useless for anyone else to enjoy. Truly, the spiritual intersects with the secular.
We must remember that in terms of prayer, God cannot be rushed into action by our pleadings. The deeper we are able to pray, the closer we can draw to Him in faith. Prayer is not a test to see if we are "good enough" to earn what we ask for. And in regard to our possessions, while it is hard to live without them, it is never impossible. The more we turn to the Lord, the less we feel the need for having other things to crowd Him out. It might take a lifetime to learn, but even then, it is far better to still learn then, instead of never having tried to live with less at all. We can all think of ways where we can scale back. Making it our lifelong habit to do that can be our mental "de-cluttering"; we need to keep God first in our lives, not an afterthought, and sometimes it takes having drastic things happen to our goods in order for us to grasp what's really important in life. If situations occur to our liking, that is just a plus. But when our lives are in-tune with what God wills for our lives, we are more satisfied with the good and the bad that happens, because we know that all things are temporary this side of heaven.
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