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Minimalism from a Biblical Point of View —

Biblical Minimalism© is "a complete, whole-person release of anything unlike Jesus, a letting go of everything that hinders us from following Him wholeheartedly and single-mindedly, and a relinquishing of all that brings us under bondage to this earthly, very temporary life." Cheryl E. Smith

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Living Life Looking Forward

"And Jesus said unto him, 'No man, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God."  Luke 9:62 (KJV)


It is no secret that the sentimental layer of minimizing has been the most agonizing for me.  I associate things with people and memories from the past, and it just feels so wrong to let the associated thing go.  Somehow, I feel like I am betraying my precious parents if I dare to donate the gifts Mom bought for me or all the decoupage pictures Dad took so much time to make for me.  After all, there will be no more gifts from them.  I miss them so much and holding on to the things they gave me during their time on earth brings a great deal of comfort.  Or does it?  Sometimes, it all starts to feel heavy and seeing certain things seems to accentuate the blatancy of their absence more than make me feel the sense of comfort I felt the day they were given to me.  Because it is not that day anymore.  Many moons have passed, and a lot of water has flowed under the bridge during the 19 years since Dad went to Heaven and the 7 years since Mom followed him there.

Due to circumstances beyond our control and completely against our will, we recently had to move again.  As we packed and prepared for the move, I was completely dumbfounded as to how we could STILL have so much stuff!  As you will know if you have been reading here long, we began downsizing in earnest four years ago, sold our 4-bedroom home with the oversized garage, and released about 90% of our physical possessions.  We moved into a 2 bedroom, furnished rental that provided very little storage, have continued downsizing the entire time we lived there being intentional about not bringing new things into our home, and yet, when we got ready to move again, I was completely overwhelmed by all we still own.  How could this be?

As I unpack boxes and crates in our new place, it occurs to me that a lot of what I am unpacking is sentimental in nature.  Oh, there are the things that we actually use, need, and want to keep, but there are a lot of other things I am still clinging to simply because I feel guilty letting them go.  As I contemplated all of this, the light of these epiphanies dawned on me.

1. Sentimental things are tethering me to the past.  They are beginning to feel like an anchor holding me back from fully embracing the now and what is to come.  I cling to them because I want to maintain a bridge to yesterday, but that bridge is an uncrossable, unrealistic fantasy.  Holding on to the things that belonged to or were given to me by departed loved ones will never bring them back or transport us back in time.

2. When an item evokes more sadness than happiness, it no longer deserves a place in my life.

3. I no longer want to be reminded of what used to be but will never be again because I want to enjoy today and the memories still to be made.

4. These sentimental things are no longer making me feel joyful.  They bring pangs of heartache when I look at them, and as I watch my husband and son lug these crates around, I cringe thinking about how my sentimentality is the cause of their sore muscles and backs.

5. I am not betraying my parents (or anyone else) by not keeping every greeting card they ever gave me or holding on to every, single thing they ever bought for me.  I don’t have to give up everything, but I don’t need to keep everything, either.  It is unhealthy and unfair to the loved ones who remain and mean the world to me.  Thankfully, I have the option of keeping choice, meaningful reminders of my time with them and still feel okay about not clinging to the rest.  I can almost hear my very practical, sensible parents telling me it is not only okay, but it is high time to let go.

6. One day, when our son has the unpleasant job of sorting through our things after we are gone, the memories associated with the things we leave behind will not be attached.  These are our memories, not his.  It won’t make sense to him why I kept a restaurant receipt from a meal Mom, Dad, and I shared when I was a teenager.  He wasn’t there, nor will he understand its purpose.  So, why burden him with it?

7. Most of the sentimental stuff hasn’t seen the light of day in years.  I just keep it stashed away in crates that are never opened and keep moving it from place to place kind of like dragging a ball and chain behind me.  Opening it now feels like reopening an old, painful wound.  I don’t want to do that anymore.  How can I completely heal if I keep reopening the wound?

8. As I purge the sentimental, I start to realize these same truths apply to relationships that may have at one time been healthy but have become toxic.  Clinging to a detrimental relationship out of sheer guilt is counter-productive to my new forward-looking life.  As I am assessing every, single thing I take out of boxes and crates before finding it a place in our new home, I am analyzing each relationship to see if it still brings benefit, joy, and enrichment to my current life.

Sometimes, as Christians, we develop the mindset that we are never to encounter or engage in conflict or eliminate any relationships.  This could not be farther from the truth.  There are times that our walk with Christ will be the very catalyst that requires the severance of a relationship.  I talk a lot more about this in a post called "Minimizing Detrimental Relationships."

It feels good to shed what is no longer healthy.  From now on, I want to live life looking forward.  I feel excited about changing my perspective from mourning for yesterday to anticipation for tomorrow.  After having gone through some scary medical stuff lately, I have been freshly reminded just how fragile life is, and I don’t want to waste any more time longing for what has already been lived.  Life is such a precious gift, and I feel like God has handed me a new lease on life.  With deep gratitude to Him for more time, I want to embrace this moment and all future moments, living each one to the full with an outlook of eagerness and expectation of good things ahead.  I want to trade in the old for what is new and still to come.

16 comments:

  1. Loved this post! I've been thinking about this very topic as we try to downsize the basement pile that has accumulated over the years. You really helped me better organize my thoughts about holding onto all those sentimental things that wouldn't mean a hill of beans to anyone else...and that I never take the time to look at or touch. Sorry to hear about the medical issues-I sure hope all is well now. Tell everyone we said HELLO!

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    1. So good to hear from you, Tipper! I am so thankful you found encouragement in this post! Thank you for your sweet visit and kind words. I hope everyone is well in your family. Tell them all hello from us, too. :) Many blessings to you all!

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  2. This is the very hardest part of decluttering. I recently sorted all my letters into 14 !!! boxes, by sender. (Shoe box size) I plan to read through them and discard most of them, except for precious ones from my grandmother and children. I have the time and the room to enjoy them once more, then I will let them go. They will mean nothing to anyone else. I think it's ok to keep the very happiest items. You don't need to get rid of everything, but 90% sounds good (talking to myself here!) I actually burned some items in our fireplace once that were causing me painful memories. Had a little goodbye ceremony, letting those memories go. xo

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    1. Wow! You are making amazing progress! Yes, 90% is a great number to strive for! I LOVE how you burned those items. We did the same before we sold our home and land and moved. We didn't have a fireplace, but my husband made a big bonfire on our land and burned a huge pile of things that were tethering us to the past. It felt so good to let it all go and to feel the freedom to make our long-distance move without dragging it all along. I wish we had a way to burn some things now, but that isn't possible, so the shredder is getting a major workout! Isn't it something how when you are shedding excess in one area of life, it encourages you to do the same in other areas? Minimizing one area is so contagious and spills over into other parts of life. Feeling the freedom your weight loss journey is bringing is probably giving you courage to let go of other "weight," too! I am so proud of you and praying for you and cheering you from here! Much love to you, sweet friend!

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  3. Cheryl when we started packing for our move from Tim's childhood home we were couldn't believe how much stuff had accumulated over the years. There was stuff that belonged to his parents, stuff that belonged to him and let's not go into mine and our girls things. We ended up renting a dumpster and throwing out things that were truly junk and had boxes and boxes of items that went to the thrift store. I still feel like we might have brought too much stuff to our new home. When we got to AZ our furniture went to U-haul storage but we actually ended up putting a few items in the free section of that U-haul had set up. All that to say, I hated giving up soo much stuff but I'm happy others will be blessed by our stuff.

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    1. I know what you mean. You would not believe how much we have let go of over the past few years. I honestly did not think much about it when we lived in a much larger home with a huge garage. But, once we started assessing all that we owned, it was so unbelievable. It is still a journey, and I still feel like we have excess. We are still "shedding" and being careful not to bring more stuff in, unless it is necessary. Thanks for sharing your story, Regina! God bless you.

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  4. Cheryl, I wasn’t aware that you had moved, I know that can be stressful. Thank you for writing this post, it is right where I live. I still carry in my purse my mom’s last grocery list she made twelve years ago. I haven’t been able to part with anything of hers, I know letting go can be freeing, but it makes me feel closer to her to keep them. I am conflicted about it, so for now I will hold on. Thank you for your kindness and genuineness sweet friend!

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    1. Oh, can moving ever be so stressful! Then with all the sickness and hospital stay the week before, it was nearly more than we could bear. But, God. He is SO faithful! How I praise Him for all He has done and helped us through. I was SO touched by your keeping your dear Mom's grocery list. I would absolutely hang on to that for as long as you need to, forever, if need be. I still have notes my dear Mom wrote to me, and I will never let them go. You are so right, things like that DO bring comfort and they were a part of our dear loved ones, and besides all that, they are lightweight and don't take up hardly any space at all. So thankful for you and your encouragement, sweet friend. :)

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  5. Wow, you're so spot on, Cheryl. For sure our children have no interest in going through endless mounds of stuff, tchotchkes, paperwork.

    What a great post ... so helpful.

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    1. So grateful for your kind comments and encouragement, Linda. I continue to pray for you and your dear family.

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  6. It's nice hearing you speak from a Biblical worldview. I too recently had the strong impression to get rid of all that is dead and not bringing life in my walk. I thought of this while pruning plants in my yard. With concern for their survival in the heat, I trimmed off all dead leaves and branches. No use having them drained trying to keep what's dead, alive. So, what about me? It's also time to unburden myself of relationships and habits that don't bring life and drain me of energy trying to maintain them with my own strength. Here's to freedom, new life, less burdens! I now chose to go to Jesus for rest, taking His yoke on me, for His yoke is easy and His burden is light.

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    1. Oh, how true, Sandra! Thank you for your comment. I LOVE the analogy you shared about pruning off those dead leaves and branches. You are so right, deadness does nothing but drain. God bless you!

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  7. Thank you so much sweet friend for sharing this transparent and heartfelt post that is filled with so much insight and wisdom.

    By nature I am not sentimental. I feel like that sounds so harsh. There was a time when I was sentimental, but too often, those things I was holding onto were either destroyed, broken, taped over or lost. So I found myself not holding on to many things anymore with the mentality that it will just get ruined anyway. Now that isn't healthy either. Having said all of this, I don't like clutter. It physically negatively effects me. So I am not much of a saver. I have a special keepsake box that sits on top of my bureau mirror where I keep only the most special cards and notes and some pictures, but that's it.

    But the reasons your post resonated with me so much is that my mom is VERY sentimental and saves EVERYTHING. When I look around there house I think, "Oh my, mom will expect me to take much of this." And indeed she has voiced this. She has stated that she doesn't want her family's legacy to be lost but to be kept. I had as carefully as possible stated "I don't know where I would put all these things in our house" And it crushed me because she looked hurt when I said that. So I rallied and said, well I have space in the family room area in the basement. And she said again, I just want to make sure these things are saved.

    Even now with my parents alive and very healthy, I get sad going to their house, thinking of all the things they have and that one day they won't be here, but all these things will be. I can imagine that I would feel the same way you do that those things would cause me more pain than joy.

    You've given me much to ponder, and although I'm not there yet and hopefully not for a good long time, I appreciate so much what you've shared here.

    You are such a blessing dear friend. Sending you much love.

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    1. Oh, my! My heart really goes out to you concerning the situation with your Mom. The generation before us was brought up in such a different time, and "things" were so important to them. I can understand her feeling the need to preserve that and pass it down, and I can surely understand the weight you feel as it bears down upon you knowing it will all be yours to decide about one day. No wonder Jesus traveled light. The less we have in this life, the less we have to worry about, keep track of, and deal with. I understand why you feel sad seeing their things and knowing one day they won't be here, but the stuff still will be. It can actually become such a burden because it makes their absence so much more pronounced. May God bless you, dear friend, and grant you the wisdom you need. Your precious encouragement means SO much to me. Sending much love back to you!

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  8. Wow, I just read your article on Living Life Looking Forward and it really hit home for me. I've always been a very sentimental guy, ever since I was a kid, it's just who I am. At age 50 now, with three beautiful daughters, the first off to college, I find myself getting so bogged down by all the sentimental reminders around the house of their younger days...the drawings, the little notes, art projects etc. And I hate to admit it, but most of it just makes me sad and dwell on the days that are now gone, instead of appreciating what great people they are all becoming and all the good, exciting times ahead.

    I will always be sentimental...I can't change that, but I'm going to make a better effort to let go some of this stuff that only seems to bring me down. I know it's going to be a painful process for me, but your article is really inspiring. Thank you!

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    1. Your comment was such a blessing to me today. I can't thank you enough for commenting and sharing your thoughts! I completely understand your pain. This is so hard, and it can be so difficult to find balance. I struggle so much and am constantly leaning on the Lord to show me what to do and help me to let go of the past. I am SO grateful to know this article was inspiring to you and am so thankful you commented to let me know. I pray you are continually led to do what brings your heart peace.

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