Saturday, January 2, 2010

Cleaning House

Day 2 of New Year’s Resolution 2010. There are the usual promises--eat better, lose weight, exercise more, pray often, but I have added a penance that has been nagging at me for some time.

It was driven home when our daughter wanted to have our wedding album, driven, no doubt, by a desire to see her parents back when they were “cool.” I could lay my hands on all manner of completely useless stuff, but that precious visual memory eluded us for several hours. Ultimately we found it, but I brought something that has been nagging at me for some time into crystalline clarity. It’s become painfully obvious to me that I spend so much time keeping track of things that really do not matter that it is keeping me from the things that do.

Pack-rat-itis goes along with the human condition, I suppose, but it runs contrary to the Gospel. I hear Christ send His disciples off without a purse and I think of the dozen or so I have in my closet, “just to match.” That, by the way, puts me in mind of an excellent Lenten discipline, to fast from purses. It might be interesting.

The Saints point the way to holy poverty and I not only have a house, I have a house for the car (s), and even that sometimes gets too full for a vehicle to be kept there. It’s time to make some adjustments.

It’s clear that God does not expect us--at least most of us--to abjure material goods entirely. Some things we really do need: a roof over our heads, a fire in the hearth, food on the table. Some things we use more or less efficiently in our work and to the glory of God: in my case a computer and bookshelves stacked two and three deep. My boss expects me to show up well dressed, and I owe God as much honor as my boss. I really do get it that goods are not, in themselves, bad.

What gets in the way is when “stuff” becomes an attachment that separates us from God. I stopped with a jolt when I realized I had spent more time looking for a photo album than I had spent on my rosary that day--and spent it because I had too much other stuff to know right where it was. I spent most of the rest of the day thinking about that as I went through our Christmas rituals with new appreciation of the people I was with and the time I spent with them.

When things help keep me connected--in a right, proper, and holy way--to God, they are wonderful gifts. When they interfere, even if just by their sheer numbers--it’s time for them to go. And I suspect that as I learn to cultivate the proper detachment from things, I will learn the proper detachment from food , from leisure and from all the other things that, unchecked, keep me from realizing God’s greater gifts.

My promise to myself is that every day I will rid myself of at least one thing--one real, tangible, object, that interferes with my walk with Christ just because I have to expend effort to keep up with it. I’ve no worry that I will run out of things to shed before the end of the year, more’s the pity....

But already, my heart is lighter. Thanks be to God.

1 comment:

  1. A pack rat I never was, however my ex-wife was. I just kept it all for many years. Fortunately, my cleaning lady of 20-odd years grew tired of dusting and moving everything and began putting things on the pool table with the admonition: "You've got two weeks to move it and store it -- or it goes." The basement got clean, as did the garage, and the closets yielded some cash for the poor box via the local eBay store.
    I never did get as ambitious as you determined on this post, but I thank God he sent someone to watch over me -- even if I had to pay for the privilege.