It wasn’t until I moved that I discovered my old apartment had been full of pools of dead energy.
“Why are you moving,” people asked. Their question bewildered me.
“I don’t need all the space,” I would say. “I’m almost an empty nester. My daughter’s at boarding school. My son’s heading off to college.” They would remain silent, perhaps nod. My answer didn’t seem to satisfy them. I would try again. “The maintenance sky-rocketed because real estate taxes in New York went up.” Again, they would look unconvinced. I wasn’t sure why.
And then I moved. My new apartment is snazzy and shiny. The previous owner is a gifted decorator – and my new best friend – and I gave away everything and anything that didn’t seem as snazzy and shiny as her kitchen and bathrooms. If I hesitated about whether I really needed something, I gave it away. My daughter and I have a “love it” rule when we go shopping together. Unless we both love it, we don’t buy it. I tried to apply the same rule to setting up my new apartment. If I didn’t love something, out it went. I told myself someone else would love it.
As a result, the new apartment has only things we cherish. Everywhere I turn are only needed things. Each shower has one shampoo, one conditioner and one soap. Each closet has only clothes we wear. Each shelf has only shoes that fit. Each medicine cabinet has only unexpired antibiotics. The pantry holds only food we actually eat. Each shelf has only phone chargers for phones we actually still own.
One of my first visitors pointed out I might have overdone it. He walked in and discovered the living room was down to a single lowly love seat. “You sure you didn’t give away TOO much,” he asked.
But here’s the thing. When you clear out the clutter, two things happen. First, you discover that what’s left appears new. And second, you’ve made room for something else, something better, something you’ve always wanted.
Because I discovered that the old apartment had collected what my friend Christina Culver calls pools of dead energy all over the place. I hadn’t known it. I hadn’t realized it. I hadn’t even felt the stagnant waters until I moved to dryer ground.
And yet on some level I must have felt it. Hadn’t I wanted to move, after all? Perhaps the reason my friends seemed unconvinced by my explanations was that they sensed in my voice a hidden reason, a deeper reason. Had I needed to let go of the past? Had I needed to shut the door on old memories to make room for the new?
Or perhaps I had needed to remove all the what ifs from my life. I love shows on hoarders because their excess – open the door and out spills so much junk they can’t even turn around – reminds me of myself on a smaller level. I am the Queen of What Ifs. What if ten teenagers decide to sleep over? I have ten pillows. What if there’s a hurricane? I have an LED lantern. What if we revert to the time before electricity? I have six boxes of matches. You don’t even want to know how overstuffed my suitcases are when I travel.
But God doesn’t call us to a life full of back up plans. He calls us to a life of immediacy. He wants us to live with joy. That means He wants us to dwell in a place of beauty and love which can only be achieved by depending on Him every moment of every day. The bottom line is: God wants us to rely on HIM to meet our needs. When Jesus becomes the air we breathe, we discover anything else feels like trying to survive on carbon monoxide. We can’t smell how deadly it is, but we sense we’re not getting what we need. God calls us to abandon all the what ifs. Instead, He asks us to rely on Him for the what is.
The things in our lives we cling to – all of our what ifs and maybes and just in cases – hold us back from the life of joy and peace God longs to give us. Like the crowd who gathered round Demetrius in a rage in Acts 19, most of us don’t even know why we collect these things around us that weigh us down. As Demetrius put it – even though he was trying to make the opposite point – idols made by human hands are not really gods at all. By definition – how can they be? We’re not God. So if we made it, it can’t help us. Worshipping manmade things only diminishes us.
And more than our possessions, there are worse things we hold onto. We cling to past hurts. We nurse our wounds. We remember the lies people have told us about ourselves. We hear the sneering voices that told us we weren’t good enough, lovable enough, or just plain enough enough. Instead, we like the new believers in Acts 19 can make a pile of all our contingency plans and bad habits and false beliefs and burn them up. We can cast out the old on a collective bonfire to make room for the new. We can instead accept God’s truth. We can hear the voice say that God loves us just as we are. God knows us and loves us still and He will meet our every need and satisfy our every desire.
And the reason God can do this for us is that God Himself stepped into the deepest pool of dead energy of all. Jesus went to hell – and back – for us. He stepped in over his head in order to lift us up to dry ground. Jesus covers our every flaw. Jesus heals our every wound. The cross covers our every imperfection with the perfection of Christ. We are not enough — and yet in Christ we are more than enough. He completes us in a way nothing in our hearts or our closets ever can.
God knows that we can’t just give things up. He knows we will merely replace the old bad habits and thoughts with new ones – and cling to those just as tenaciously. Instead, He asks us to step out of the pool of the dead and into the river of life. There we will find a light that fills us to overflowing, enabling us to love others the way God loves us. The only way to pure joy and peace is to walk hand in hand with the One who made us, who loves us, and who longs to fill us with His Holy Spirit. All we have to do is listen to the joyful voice that calls us to let go and surrender.
And grace like rain will fall down on us, transfiguring the old, just as the light in my new kitchen transfigured the blue glass bowl in the picture above that my mother gave me years ago, that her grandfather had given her in turn. I’ve always loved it but I never had a place for it before. Just so, God makes a new place for us. He redeems all the broken things of our past and makes even our scratched up selves glow like pools of living water. It’s the miracle of a new life, of a new home, of moving to a place where God can make even the handkerchiefs that touch our skin heal us and others of every disease.
That’s why we move. We move because we listen to that silent something in our hearts that says: it is time. It is time to search for the river of life and dive in headfirst. It is time to believe that God made our hearts to yearn for His light, His love and His Way. He makes all things new every day – even our dried up stagnant hearts. He asks that we abandon all anxiety and instead live in a new home with Him, a home full of trust and thankfulness and Love. He wants us to depend not on other flawed humans, or on controlling our surroundings, or on ourselves but on Him and Him alone. And in Him, we dwell in safety.
posted by Caroline Coleman in carolinecolemanbooks.com on January 8, 2013