On Undoing

As soon as the Christmas tree came down in early January, I was ready.

Though I enjoy keeping our home tidy and declutter as a hobby, a friend and I had decided to do a thorough, whole-home minimalist challenge in a week. I had never tackled every room in our home within such a short span, and a year’s worth of lotsatime spent together with our six-member family had taken its toll on our space.

In my own crazed way, I thoroughly enjoyed mercilessly sorting through each drawer, cupboard, and closet that week. And though in the end I only had a few bags to take to our local hospice shop, everything was once again in its place, and there was space.

That empty shelf in the closet. The half-full basket in the bathroom. The hanging room in the closet. There was margin, room for growth if need be, room to breathe in the meantime. It was truly delightful. I wondered how soon I could do the challenge again.

This exercise of handling our physical things and sorting them thoroughly and with intention prompted me to think on other areas of my life. Could I do this in my mind, in my heart? My wise counselor once asked me, “What might you need to do, or undo, in your life?”

As a lover of to-do lists, the thought of an undo-list was like an epiphany. How had I not thought of this before? It’s easy to see the ugly clutter which had accumulated throughout my home, but what kind of negativity had been accruing in my mind? What judgment had been simmering in my heart? What shame had I deeply buried, or attempted to?

I thought back to last October, when I realized how much perfection I expected of myself, and when each day I did not measure up, I felt like a constant failure. What am I doing well? That list was short, in my own mind. Could I undo some of these unattainable expectations against which I’d been measuring myself?

I thought of the polarizing year we’ve just been through. How easy it had been to slip into quick and thoughtless judgment over issues big and small. How much harder it was to extend grace and the benefit of the doubt to those with different perspectives. People are doing the best they can, Brené Brown says. Could I undo the judgments I was leveling against others?

I thought of the hurried state of my mind, the many open tabs which makes my life feel busier than I’d like. How I long to be able to live presently in each day, grateful for the gifts of that day, without worry for the rest of the week or month or the endless to-do list. Could I undo the hurry in my mind? Could I carve some space?

Recently, I have been dwelling on this wisdom: “For every yes we say, it’s a no to something else.” While this is absolutely true in our schedules, it’s also true in our minds and hearts. If I choose to focus on my short-comings, I’m saying no to focusing on God’s grace and work in my life, and on the things I’m doing well. If I choose judgment, I’m saying no to grace and compassion toward others. If I choose hurry, I’m saying no to abiding with Christ in the small moments of my days, and treasuring this season of life. 

Scripture does not shy away from telling us what to undo, or put away (Eph. 4:31), or what to put to death (Col. 3:5). Before we can be clothed “with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience” (Col. 3:12), we first need to undo our sinful attitudes. Before we can put on the new self, “which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator” (Col. 3:10), we must put off the old self and its many bad habits.

If we want to grow in grace, in godliness, in contentment, and many other holy characteristics, perhaps we must first clear away the ugly sinful attitudes which have accumulated in our minds and hearts. Just as we clear space on our counters and in our cupboards for growth, we must clear internal space for internal growth.

So, I invite you today to think with me: what in my life needs to be undone? What do you need to say no to in order to say yes to something else?

Photo by Corinne Kutz on Unsplash

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