July 26, 2017
On that day, Jesus went out of the house and sat down by the sea.
Such large crowds gathered around him
that he got into a boat and sat down,
and the whole crowd stood along the shore.
And he spoke to them at length in parables, saying:
"A sower went out to sow.
And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path,
and birds came and ate it up.
Some fell on rocky ground, where it had little soil.
It sprang up at once because the soil was not deep,
and when the sun rose it was scorched,
and it withered for lack of roots.
Some seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it.
But some seed fell on rich soil, and produced fruit,
a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold.
Whoever has ears ought to hear."
Are you moving toward freedom in your life? All of your pursuits, all of the trappings that come along with them, are they freeing you to receive God's Word?
My family and I just collected all of our belongings from a storage facility here in central Minnesota, ending the long saga of our cross-country move. To make space, we've been sorting through "The Pile". You know, all of the art projects and random collections and outdated CDs (or maybe even cassettes) that are sitting around your childhood home. Mine is deep and wide, and full of 90's paraphernalia like Pogs, Pokemon Cards, and old school pictures.
I got to thinking: How long was I pining for so many of these things? How hard did I work to fill my Pokemon binder with holographics and first editions? Nearly every item brought an expected sense of nostalgia, but also a less-expected anxiety; how long did I work to collect so many things that I thought would make me one of the cool kids and, therefore, happy. Yet my memories are not filled with a sense of pride and fulfillment, but so much self-consciousness and desire to be liked that it makes me sad to think that it would be so many years until I find my identity in the Lord.
There's a spirituality to "stuff" and minimalism that has gained some traction lately in popular culture. The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo in particular comes to mind. (I'm a neat freak and I know my wife is going to have a heyday now that I'm writing about a NYT bestseller of which I am....probably not the target audience). Kondo's approach to decluttering all of the stuff can be summed up in one question: "Does this spark joy?" I think a Catholic analogy would be the Examen prayer of St. Ignatius. Did all of my stuff, both physical and mental, bring me closer to God today? A daily practice of awareness and appreciation of our life and emotions is incredibly helpful.
Over time, our unaddressed stuff can buildup and create strongholds for the Adversary in our life. These are areas where we might be discouraged or subtly convinced that we'll never find freedom. This stuff can be cleared periodically through specific prayer; without going too much into detail I recommend you ask a spiritual leader in your life how to proceed in this area. Books such as Unbound by Neal Lozano can help, too. Trust me, everybody needs this.
Our earthly life is a combination of receiving and cultivating: we need to seek the seed (God's Word) and till the soil so that it takes deep root.
Maybe there are relationships that need healing, maybe ones that you thought could never be healed. Maybe you've got habits or vices that you've given up fighting. Maybe you're fighting depression or illness and have slowly started to believe that God can't or won't go down into your sorrow and set you free.Take responsibility for your stuff. Clear out what needs clearing, and give thanks for the rest. Rid yourself of the anxiety-inducers, and cherish what sparks the joy of the Lord.
Praised be Jesus Christ, source of all freedom.