Lent 1: Creating Space by Letting Go

My chosen Lenten practice this year is to give myself to clearing out one space in my house every day, both as a practical way of living more simply, and as a metaphor for the movement in the life of the Spirit that is attentive to cleansing, letting go, keeping myself open to the ways of the Word that is very near me. I love the practice of many folk art communities of making a new work of  art with one, sometimes indiscernible, flaw, so that the Spirit can get in. However, my spaces in home and spirit are not always open, because stuff piles up in them, on them, around them.

My prayer place began with a simple table, a candle, a tray, some ribbons, and a basket of books. Over time, and I am sure I do not know how it happens, more things appear: an icon, a prayer card, another candle, another book, a pressed flower. Surely these are all good things, reminding me of my life with the Holy One. Yet when the simple table is overflowing, it is easy to lose focus on the one thing necessary that Mary chose– to be with Jesus, to listen for a Word, to open the window of my soul to the fresh wind of the Spirit every day. So, this Lent I am committed to letting go–each day–of the unnecessary things, although they may be good in themselves.

Just in the first few days’ efforts I am amazed at the regularity and tenacity with which things accrue and cling to my spaces of work and play. Expired coupons, unidentified phone numbers, duplicate agendas pile up in baskets and files. Unread books, clothes unworn for ages, shoes that no longer suit or fit cluster in clumps of disuse. And questions arise as I sort and discard and re-organize:

  • who else might need this thing that I don’t need? how can I get it to that person or that agency or that pantry?
  • how much is being wise as a serpent, preparing for the days to come (in my location, earthquakes), and how much is hoarding because of fear or, worse yet, being seduced by the promises of two-for-one specials?
  • did these things get here with thoughtful intention or because I have not been paying enough attention to keeping the space clear just for the things that are necessary?

As I sort and sift I think of other accretions that fill up space.

  • how many blogs and e-mails do I need to read every day in order to feel satisfied?
  • how many books and resources on spirituality do I need to read before I put one into action?
  • how much information do I need to have about the world before I commit to giving to and praying for the one to which I am called?

This Lent I am about letting things go daily, good things, worthy things, except for the the ones necessary for me in this season, so that I can let the Spirit have room to lead me where She wants to go with just what I need for the journey.

 

 

About Elizabeth Nordquist

Elizabeth Nordquist is a Presbyterian pastor, teacher, and spiritual director who writes on women's issues, spirituality and Scripture, and what is happening in the world--hers, her neighborhood, the Church and the world. Each day she looks for ways in which the Spirit is moving in and around her.

  • Lorraine Stuart

    Thank you, Elizabeth. Our church’s Lenten book is Paula Huston’s “Simplifying the Soul,” beginning with simplifying space. I recommend it — and appreciate your encouragement!

  • http://www.fourthwallpriest.blogspot.com Cynthia Hallas

    Elizabeth – thank you! You’ve captured many of my own feelings, and intentions that have gone unfulfilled in my own life. I especially relate to wondering how many blog (and shared Facebook articles!) I need to read. Blessings to you this Lent as you continue to make room for the Holy Spirit.

  • Tom Rennard

    Thank you, Elizabeth. I am seeking to do much the same but your blog encourages me to “go for it.” Grace and peace.


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