Don’t be obsessed with getting more material things. Be relaxed with what you have. Since God assured us, “I’ll never let you down, never walk off and leave you,” we can boldly quote,
God is there, ready to help;
I’m fearless no matter what.
Who or what can get to me?
–Hebrews 13:5 MSG
It has long been my practice to “clear the decks” each January. For me, that means going through the house and gathering up things I don’t use, don’t love, or have too much of. I don’t have to try hard to accumulate stuff! Inevitably in my sorting, I rediscover something I love, and also, inevitably, I find places where I have duplicated myself–clothes, cleaning supplies, books–all the everyday stuff, because I didn’t know what I already had.
I wonder why that could be?
Perhaps some of the fallout of moving quickly often or taking on too many responsibilities creates conditions to live on the surface? Perhaps in those contexts, it’s easy to lose sight of the layers just beneath what is readily seen. Or perhaps it points at the reasons we move fast and take on too much. Mundane life is often unseen and doesn’t speak to our longing to belong and to matter. And sometimes, it’s just plain boring.
I wonder what life might look like if I let go of some of the responsibilities packed so tightly that there’s only time for surface living? I wonder if it’s ok for me to sit with the incompleteness of who I am, knowing that incompleteness might cost me a sense of belonging somewhere? I wonder if I might find wonder rather than boredom when what I already have has space to take on meaning?
The practice of contentment begins with knowing and understanding what I already have.
ACTION: If you’d like, take a moment or two to listen to the birds in this short video. Let the wide, open spaces of the scenery clear your mind and settle your heart.
When you’re ready, read Wendall Berry’s poem slowly. Savor it. Pause between phrases, picturing the scene he paints for us. When you finish, you may want to sit for several minutes and let it sink in. What is it that you need? What is it that you already have?
“The Wild Geese”
by Wendall Berry
Horseback on Sunday morning,
Harvest over, we taste persimmon
And wild grape, sharp sweet
Of summer’s end. In time’s maze
Over the fall fields, we name names
That went west from here, names
That rest on graves. We open
A persimmon seed to find the tree that stands in promise,
Pale, in the seed’s marrow.
Geese appear high over us,
Pass, and the sky closes. Abandon,
As in love or sleep, holds them to their way, clear,
In the ancient faith: what we need
is here. And we pray, not
for new earth or heaven, but to be
quiet in heart, and in eye
clear. What we need is here.
–Taken from Collected Poems by Wendall Berry, copyright 1985