Fall Cleaning: Getting Rid of the Clutter in Our Souls
Last week we shifted into the season of autumn. The nights have grown cooler, the days shorter. There is a crispness to the air. Our bodies begin longing for soups and stews, the comfort foods of fall. Perhaps like me you are about to pack away the shorts, tank tops, and sandals, and take out the sweaters, jackets, and long pants. Perhaps like me you also long to clean out some of the clutter that accumulated over the lazy months of summer, to make room for the indoor activities of all. I always itch to do fall cleaning.
I am reading a book by Joyce Rupp called The Cup of Our Lives in preparation for a women’s retreat I will be leading in November. In this book Rupp invites us to select one of our favorite cups or mugs. She asks us to hold it in our hands, and to imagine it as representative of our lives. She reminds us that God longs to fill our cups – that is “us” – with God’s presence, but too often we are not open to this because our lives are cluttered with other things. Just like the rooms of our houses get cluttered with too much stuff, so also our inner lives get cluttered with too much stuff. Sometimes it’s easier to clear out the clothes that no longer fit, or the shoes that have grown too shabby, the plastic containers which no longer have lids, or the junk mail that’s accumulated in our “pile,” than it is to clear out the clutter that’s clogging our souls.
Since I got back from vacation about a month ago, I have had problems with “storage” on my electronic devices. This often happens because I take too many photographs on vacation. The “genius” at the Apple Store actually told me, “Your devices don’t have the energy to shoot your photographs up into “the Cloud,” because they are too bogged down, too clogged up with photos.” I have an appointment later this week to straighten things out. Then a couple of days ago, I read Rupp’s chapter on “the cluttered cup of my life.” “How ironic,” I thought to myself. Is my soul also too clogged up and cluttered that I do not have the energy to focus on what really matters in this life?
In our community of faith we have many young families. Many of them are pulled in multiple directions: both parents are working; this child has so many activities, and the other child has just as many at the same time but in a different place. I remember those days. The spiritual activities of communities of faith seem like just a lot more things to do, more stuff to clutter up peoples’ lives. At a recent clergy meeting colleagues of all different faiths said that attendance at church or temple or synagogue is continuing to decline because people are simply stretched too thin, with too much to do and too little time. Our lives feel more clogged and cluttered than ever. One of the Rabbis said, “I think people come to us to find meaning and purpose in their lives. I think we need to take a long, hard look at what we are doing, and ask ourselves if we are helping people to find meaning and purpose in their lives. I think we need to eliminate everything else, and focus solely on that.” His words have stayed with me.
Rupp says we sometimes cling to things we really need to let go of. Maybe it’s old ways of doing things that no longer serve us in our lives. Maybe its practices or patterns that are no longer life-giving, and should be eliminated. Maybe there is simply “too much” inside our souls: too much self-chatter, too many regrets, too much negativity, too many “shoulds” and “woulds” and “coulds.” Rupp reminds us that we need to empty ourselves to make room for something new that God is longing to give to us. A friend of mine said that she never buys new clothes, without giving away as many pieces of clothing as she buys. I have begun to practice this in my own life. Something must be removed before something new can be received.
This autumn, as you fall clean your closets and the physical rooms where you live, can you ask God to clean out the mess and the clutter in the deep recesses of your soul? Can you let God remove the things in your soul that need to be eliminated to make room for the new life God desires for you?
This day, may you begin to make room for the Holy One within.
Copyright September 27, 2016
Photos: Chapel, Iona; Retreat Center, MA; blowing bubbles with Sylvie, Lynn, MA; chapel, Iona; the road to Casa del Sol, Ghost Ranch, Abiquiu, NM