When E and I first got married we settled on a “life motto” to live by together–
“When you have more than you need, build a longer table, not a higher fence.”
It’s kind of mind blowing when I think about who I used to be. Do you ever do that? Catch yourself staring at an old photo (thanks to stupid Timehop) horrified of what you were wearing, or lack of… No? Just me? OK.
I’ll tell you who I used to be. I’m not ashamed of her. No shame allowed in this space.
I was an extremely hard worker and a firm believer of the “take life by the balls” approach. I was not born into wealth, nor did my parents ever dish out money for me that wasn’t earned. It might have made me hate them during my middle school years since I was surrounded by friend’s whose parents gave them a twenty-dollar bill no questions asked, but I thank God they knew what they were doing.
By the time I got to college, I had almost no tolerance for lazy. If I can take 18 credit hours, run on the track team, and work multiple jobs, what’s their excuse? I had some issues, of course. I won’t get into that here. (Not yet, at least.)
My point is, whenever I saw a homeless person, my first reaction was not empathy or grace. It was judgement; a hardened heart. They probably got themselves in that mess! I thought. Why should I give them my hard earned money? It’s a dog eat dog world out there. Every (wo)man for him/herself.
Then, I met Jesus.
He wrecked my life.
Jesus continues wrecking my life. This isn’t some spiritual high from a conference or summer camp that dwindles after awhile. A true relationship with him has put me into this rhythm of constant communication. Sometimes, err, a lot of the time, I get mad it him for it.
Just the other day, I walked out of Whole Foods with my overpriced bag of organic produce and the beggar standing in the cold shook his cup. I had no spare change and was instantly annoyed. I really did not want to offer him one of my Granny Smith apples, so I kept walking. I got no more than one block away before turning around. Cursing God in my mind for inconveniencing me and the Spirit for nudging me, I went back up to the man and apologized for not introducing myself. I offered to buy him something inside the store or give him a piece of fruit from my bag. He was grateful and set the apple on top of his things. I could write a billion words on homelessness, but the point is, I have more than I need and I (always) have a choice: build a higher fence or a longer table.
This wave of minimalism started when we moved into our teeny, tiny apartment. I mean, you do what you have to when you only have 600 square feet to work with. It has nothing to do with it being all the rage right now. I’m not interested in the trendiness of it, although I’ll admit I think the aesthetics make me smile. It boils down to one thing. I think Jesus was a minimalist and I want to be more like him.
The minimalist lifestyle is helping E and I focus on the most important pursuits in our life by removing distractions and excess. Somehow, the whole “less is more” is proving to be true once again. It’s adding an undeniable richness to our lives. To be honest, I’ve begun to wonder why all Christ-followers aren’t leaning into this, even leading the way.
A lot of people associate minimalism with getting rid of clothes, but that’s just dipping your toes in the water. By no means have E and I jumped off the diving board, but I’d say we’re slowing easing from the shallow to the deep end. Here’s a simple break-down of our approach…
Keep: only things that enhance and benefit our life, but do not harm the environment.
Why: to maximize life for all.
- Buy less. By spending less we are able to give more to those in need, pay off debt faster, and add to our savings account. In that order.
- Own less. In general, the more you own, the more you have to clean, organize, maintain, repair, etc. These take time, time that could be better spent with our spouses or kids, just for example.
- Donate more. My trash is probably another man’s treasure. Anytime I bring in something new (clothing, decor, etc.) I’m getting rid of another thing, or two. And let’s not forget about donating blood, which saves lives.
- Boycott unnecessary items. Such as: paper-towel. Again, we are far from going paperless, but this was a no-brainer. Don’t worry ma, we’re not turning into total hippies. We won’t be boycotting toilet paper anytime soon.
- Trim the fat. Minimize artificial ingredients and toxins that enter our bodies. Y’all, I haven’t had a doughnut since the New Year! *Gasp* We’ve been eating mostly Paleo meals and it really does feel amazing. “Dessert because I’m never going to deprive myself entirely of God’s love. Food because I want to live long enough to share it. That’s the meal plan I had in mind for 2017.” -yours truly.
- Reduce clutter. By reducing you experience freedom and simplicity in such a practical way. From less clothing to choose from to less toys to pick up after, there’s no need to hang onto (or even purchase to begin with) so much stuff. If you think about it, we only use a small percentage of things in our homes regularly. I’m even lending more and more of my books out to people with the knowledge that I’ll probably never get them back, but that’s OK by me. I’m rarely a double-dipper when it comes to books.
- Conscious Spending. When I do make a purchase, I’ve found these 12 questions to be helpful. I’ve also felt really convicted about fast fashion and am working on sustainable fashion purchases from now on.
Minimalism is, to me, an obvious route to experiencing more happiness, freedom, and personal growth. I will never forget the first chapter of Wild and Free when Jess Connolly writes, “They [passionate leaders and worshipers of God] kept their junk to a minimum so they could really run far and fast with the Lord.”
That’s what I want. To run far and fast with God. To experience more of him. Adios, distractions. Jesus, I’m all yours.