I finished the Life Changing Magic of Tidying up a bit ago–lots to quibble with, certainly, but plenty of good mixed in with the dubious. Taking the things you own seriously, for example, and treating them properly and respectfully is a brilliant thought. So is the habit of not acquiring stuff to soothe your shattered ego or because you have so many things you can’t find any of them and just have to go buy new ones. What’s not so great is the invitation to put yourself at the very center of your world and measure every single object in your house by how it makes you feel.
Because really, if you’ve tidied your house, and I intend for the rest of this post to be sarcastic and bitter, why stop there? You’ll want to take literally everything and hold it in your hands and ask yourself, does this spark joy? And if it doesn’t, chuck it, because you deserve to only be surrounded by things you love. And probably (though Kon Mari of course doesn’t say this, but doesn’t it feel like the obvious logical next step?) you’ll want to go systematically through all the people in your life as well and ask all the same questions. Do I need this person? Does he look well with my furniture? Does she spark joy? Does Jesus even fit in with what I know I need to be happy? You’re probably headed off to church this morning. What better place to apply what you’ve learned.
First off, when you go into the church building, consider all the furnishings of the place. Do they spark joy? It’s unlikely. Spend the morning critically examining the paint color, the carpet, the way the tables and chairs are arranged in the church hall. During the sermon, make a sketch of how everything could be improved. And I do mean everything. Every cupboard, every Sunday school room. Make a note of your efforts to yourself on your to do list so that you won’t forget to complain about it later.
Second, consider the people. Do any of them spark joy? It’s unlikely. None of them are anything like you. Maybe they even visually clash with the color of the walls. Try to avoid the ones that don’t spark joy and only be with the ones who do.
Third, as you wander around the building this morning, ask yourself what you’re doing there. What kind of ministries are you involved with. Are you an usher? Do you work in the nursery? Do you help with the coffee? Are you on a prayer team? As you do your various duties throughout the morning, ask yourself, does this ministry bring me joy? Hold it up in your mind’s eye and look at it from every direction. When was the last time anybody said thank you? When was the last time anybody asked your opinion? If you really think about it, there’s probably no way any of these activities make you feel peaceful and happy. Does your body tense up when more babies come into the nursery? Does your skin feel bright and fresh as you lug around coffee urns? Joy is visible in the body. You’re probably clenching your teeth just to make it into the building. That’s probably not good for you.Fourth, really, when you get down to brass tacks, the worship itself could really stand a good tidy. A lot of it is dusty and old, or cheap and junky. Either way, it would be a good idea to cut out whole portions of the worship–the confession, obviously, and the parts that don’t speak personally to you. You don’t need the whole thing. Just take the bits you’re pretty sure you can’t do without and discard the rest. Paste the bits you’ve kept into a binder and shove it on the shelf. Later, when you look at it again, you’ll see you didn’t need any of it and you’ll be able to throw the whole thing away.
But don’t stop there. Hold up everything you’re involved with during the week for church. I bet very little of that sparks joy. I mean, you probably have to leave your warm house when it’s cold out, and it’s inconvenient. Are there even cookies at your small group? Did anyone at the soup kitchen even notice that you were there doing dishes?
But now, lets turn to the heart of it, Jesus. Is he even giving you any joy? When was the last time he gave you anything you wanted? I mean, here you are, having bothered to come to his building, which he should have tidied all the people and clutter out of, and instead of congratulating you and giving you peace and joy, you’re being invited to ‘die to yourself,’ and ‘take up your cross.’ Boy, of all the things that don’t spark joy, death and crosses have to be at the top of the list. And what is this, ‘loving people and doing good for them with no thought of yourself?’ Or, ‘considering other people as better than yourself?’ Or ‘Loving God with all your heart and mind and soul and your neighbor as yourself?’ Or, ‘counting the cost’ and ‘walking in the narrow way?’
Or, the worst of it, looking into the depths of your own heart and seeing that even though you’ve managed to tidy your house, and you’re well on your way to tidying your church, there is no way to tidy yourself. That even if you never had to look at anything ugly, anything that you hated again, you would still be full of ugliness yourself–unable even to keep the first point of the law, to put your mind and heart in order with God. That if you were really going to have a clean heart and hands not full of sin, you would have to let God do to you what you just tried to do to your house. And it wouldn’t feel joyful very often, because at least some of what you love about your life and yourself makes God recoil in horror.
It’s true, though. The point is joy–a life changed not by magic, and not even by persistent hard work, but by letting Jesus be the center, letting his life overtake yours. It’s not magic, but it is a little bit of a miracle. And it is available at your local church this morning, if you promise not to bring Kon Mari with you.