original image take from iso.500px.com
by Evan Wain
I am sitting here at my kitchen table with an extreme case of writers block for a paper that it due tomorrow and of course that is when the inspiration to write hits me. Recently I have been investigating minimalism and what it would look like in my life. It is surprising how much stuff occupies the time and spaces of our lives constantly. As I’ve begun to realize how much stuff controls my life, the more and more I become agitated by it all. I wake up and I have the stuff I’ve acquired taking space in my bedroom, washroom, kitchen, and living room. This is a new development in my life, as someone who struggles daily with green eyes. It doesn’t stop with material possessions as I pursue knowledge in all forms, I have always wanted to know the answer and be right most of the time. Statistics, factual knowledge, literature, science, politics and computer programming have all at one point or another been a major focus of mine. If I do not know something, the process of learning it consumes me. However, for most of my walk with Jesus I struggle with one common theme: I don’t have the answers to life’s biggest questions? How do I know what God’s plan is for me? Am I sure He speaks to me?
The outside world is filled with advertisements for more stuff, most of which I have no need for. It is this unrest in my spirit that has been leading me to purge most of the belongings that do not hold inherent value in my life, and being content with that. I am not an expert in minimalism, but my brief understanding it is to be content with what I have and to be in control of what I bring into my life. For those who are interested, click here for some answers to some frequently asked questions about minimalism. I do not intend to talk more about minimalism, but I will ask this question:
Is Faith Minimalist?
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” Luke 10:27
There are many more verses that talk about how we are not to be concerned with gathering stuff or trusting in things other than God. Moving backwards here, Jesus was intentionally vague when speaking to the crowd, “… the knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them.” … “Therefore I speak to them in parables; because while seeing they do not see, and while hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand…” (Matthew 13:11,13). Jesus did not intend to give us all of the answers. God wants us to seek Him, to pursue His voice, His presence. In fact, those who imposed burdens of ritual he had very strong words and actions against. Following God should not feel like a burden, it is not a complex series of do’s and don'ts. It is accepting Christ, and following Him.
If stuff is clutter in your life, ritualism is clutter in your spirit. Now, the traditions we have as Christians do have good intentions, and in many cases are valuable parts of our faith. Many people would call ritualism “religion”, but because many people confuse or do not know that context, I believe ritualism is a more apt description for the layman. Ritualism is “the regular observance or practice of ritual, especially when excessive or without regard to its function.” Jesus laid it out, the only way to the Father is through him. There are no actions we can take as humans that can get us to Heaven. Only Jesus. The simplicity of this baffles me on a daily basis. If I want better grades, I study. If I want more things, I work more or get a better paying job. If I am sick, I go and get medicine. If I have questions, I ask people I trust for answers. This is DOING, I DO and EXPECT positive outcomes. This is not trusting in God. That is leaning on my own understanding. Ritualism complicates this relationship with God, we believe that for us to encounter God we need to do χ for Him to even consider this. Faith has no place for ritualism, faith is absolute surrender of control, and it is simple: let go of your stuff, your possessions, your rituals, and your need for answers.
Is faith minimalist? At this point in my journey, I would answer that question as yes. Jesus did not intend for us to qualify salvation. He only said “come and follow me”. Zero strings attached.
“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven…” Matthew 6:19-21
There are lots of resources online about minimalism that can help you with taking the clutter out of your life. Currently I am debating with myself about Project 333, which is where outside of a few exceptions you have 33 total items in your wardrobe. Now this is not something all should do, but 80% of my clothing sits unused and I am very puzzled with my attachment to sentimental t-shirts. In the past month, I have taken three bags of clothing to the Salvation Army and there is still more. It is almost sickening. A little bit of a soapbox moment here, our society’s obsession with possessions keeps us from truly trusting in God. We have everything we could ever want or need. Jesus stated that these treasures on earth are not going to last, so why are we focusing so much of our time on stuff that breaks down when the alternative lasts forever? Fear that I will lose what I have keeps me from being content. What if God does forsake me? Am I okay with not knowing the answer? To be ignorantly content with what may come? No. At this moment that terrifies me. I make plans, schedules, budgets, lists. I want everything in its place, clean and orderly. Faith is messy, which stresses me out.
Minimalist faith requires that I trust that God has forgiven me. I can do nothing to obtain salvation. Minimalist faith requires that I trust that God will provide for me. Minimalist faith requires an understanding that answers may or may not come to me. I need to ask myself daily, “am I okay with not knowing the answer?” I encourage you to try and take a couple things out of your life. If your schedule is busy, cut one program out. If your house is filled with objects without meaning, get rid of your least favorite. If you find your walk with Jesus is filled with hoops, ask God to help you identify which one you should remove first. Am I an expert in this? Not a chance. I am struggling with you at the same time, but as I stumble I move forward.
Evan Wain is currently graduating from the University of Alberta with a Bachelor of Education. A self-described cinema-phile he is more than willing to talk about movies and pop culture references. Saved by His grace, and forever grateful.
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