Monday, February 13, 2017

Reflection: Making Space

Every year, Jamie and I spend time together setting goals and reflecting on how we fared on our previous year's goals. In past years, I feel like I have personally been able to get those goals to paper with a moderate degree of speed, but this year, it seems that we both have been carrying our goals and our reflections in our head more than we have been putting them to paper. It has been a time of major transition as we adjust to what it means to be a father and a mother, but we still have our goals, and we are making some headway. I'm sure every parent transitions into this new role in a series of adjustments, and maybe those adjustments become more accurately described as adaptations as life takes on new color and dimension with new life.

One theme of our goals that has endured as long as we have been together has been the theme of simplicity. One could also call this goal the goal of making space. As I think about it, that's definitely an aspect of simplicity, and one which it seems there is dire need of in our lives. Whether it is making space in our homes or in our habits, all of our "habitations" or places and spaces in which we dwell, are very easily filled.

We each have been granted a gift (among many) from our Creator limited in scope from our birth. That gift is time. We have a limited number of days in a week, and hours in a day, just like we have a limited amount of space in our homes. Without some degree of intentionality and development, our time and our spaces become packed, congested, cluttered, full, and sometimes even suffocating. We can get caught up in checking our Twitter feeds, our Facebook streams, and our emails as our mobile devices continue to send us notifications from a wide array of apps and tools. We can gather more and more activity and more and more material goods, and crowd out the space for enjoyment of these activities and goods.

So what is the solution to the problem of filling our habitations with activity and clutter? I believe the answer lies in simplicity. What do I mean by simplicity? For me, I believe simplicity means exercising my ability to say no to busyness, say no to activity, and say no to holding on to items that could be bringing joy to others, and that have served their purposes in our home and life (books and clothes probably rank highest here). Simplicity also means saying no to distractions. It means refraining from checking email, Facebook, Twitter, or other 'news feeds' before or after a certain hour of day. (Jamie just recently made me aware of how I've slid into this habit over the last few months, and I'm grateful for her insight.) It means keeping the TV covered up for the most part, and making watching television into a special occasion or treat.

As a result of this line of thinking, Jamie and I have (among other things) made a habit of going through clothes and books and giving them away so they can have new life and bring more people joy. Each year, we give away bags of clothes, and the incredible thing is that we have never seemed to run short of something to wear. Each year, we take a hard look at the goods we have been blessed with, express our gratitude for them, and say goodbye to some of them.

And while this is healthy and good, I'll have to admit, that making space, whether physical or in time, is also challenging. When we looked back on our year last year, there was so much happening. And after a time of incredible busy-ness, at least for me, one of the hardest things to do is to slow down and to make space. Busy-ness becomes the norm, and then it feels weird to have space where something isn't happening whether it is a project moving forward or a new goal to conquer. But, I know that I need that space--we all do. It's probably one of the reasons that God gave humanity the practice, the space, and the commandment of Sabbath.

May we all create space for enjoyment, for reflection, for simplicity, and slow down on our desire to fill all of our moments with activity and acquisition. May we each slow down for a few moments to enjoy being present to what is happening in us and around us, caring for our souls and our world in the process.