MaryKate Morse is a Leading Voice at Missio Alliance and a speaker at our upcoming national gathering, Awakenings: The Life of the Church for the Sake of the World. Join us in Alexandra, VA, March 28-30.
On my desk, I have a little notebook with a long list of things that need to be done—and soon. People are expecting things from me, and I’m missing deadlines.
Yet instead of working through the list, I am tidying. I am straightening up my home office. I’ve gone through files and books and either discarded them or put them in their places. I’m dusting shelves. I’m dusting objects on my prayer altar and wiping off particles from the art work—the objects which draw me to God.
I’m restoring order to my holy place and to my soul.
The Spiritual Discipline of Tidying
In the last couple of weeks, my beloved spiritual director died from stroke complications. Then one of my cohort doctoral students died from having the flu and pneumonia. My body is struggling with pain because of a herniated disc which won’t right itself. I am companioning others who are in the throes of gut-wrenching disruptions and loss. The Syrian mother and father who lost all seven of their children in a house fire in Nova Scotia brings me again and again to tears. They had just escaped from Raqqa, one of the worst war-torn areas in Syria. My heart is tired with the struggles. My mind is full, trying to find a holding place for so much suffering. So, I am tidying, and I’m finding a way forward with Christ.
Tidying is actually a popular trend right now—especially with Marie Kondo’s books on the topic. She has sold millions of copies and even has a Netflix series. Also, persons who care about the environment are purchasing books, watching podcasts, and purging in order to have a simpler, more natural, and wholesome lifestyle.
But for me, as a spiritual companion and a Christ-follower, I find that tidying is a potent spiritual discipline.
Bringing Order in the Midst of Chaos
When God created the world and put Adam and Eve in the Garden, God saw that it was good. God created a beautiful, complex, and ordered world for humanity to enjoy in the company of the Trinity.
God’s order is both neat and tidy and crazy and creative. God’s order has life, as plants and animals and humanity continue the cycles of birthing. The order of God’s world reflects the nature of God, so color, goodness, joy, love are found all around us in this order.
Yet sometimes we need to dig for it.
The consequences of the fall, our desire to do our own ordering, our desire to be as gods, infected the system. Now we have evil, violence, death, loneliness, and sufferings of all kinds. I know that Christ overcame the dark, and we have hope in him. We have life in him. But sometimes, this world will try to convince us otherwise.
So, when I feel that notion creeping into my heart, I return to the Garden and walk with God through tidying.
God and I talk. We listen to each other. I busy myself in my physical place, tidying. Christ has overcome the darkness, but the world will sometimes try to convince us otherwise. When this happens, I return to the Garden and walk with God. Click To Tweet
3 Spiritual Truths Tidying Reveals
As I tidy, I am reminded of three spiritual truths.
1. The presence of God is experienced in the concrete.
First, I am reminded that life in God isn’t a spiritual myth but is real, right now in the pain. In the physical ordering of my little sacred and work space, when I tidy in prayer with God, I am reminded that God is the Sovereign Orderer. I am reminded that justice and righteousness will prevail. Despite the pain, I have hope. Despite the losses, we have a future. Evil will fail. I am reminded that God is in control.
2. Time “wasted” with God is never wasted.
Second, when I tidy as a spiritual discipline, I remind myself that my time with God is the most eternal thing I can do with my day. My work will pass away. My contributions will not even be remembered. But when I am hurting, God wants to be with me. I am reminded that God cares most about my soul. My Shepherd leads me by the still waters and into the green pastures. Returning a chaotic environment to order—be it a drawer, closet, or entire room—visually reminds me that I am loved. Spending time with God is the most eternal and impactful thing you can do with your day. Click To Tweet
3. Being on mission requires being centered in Christ.
Finally, tidying as a spiritual discipline creates enough physical and temporal space in me that I am removed from the river of my cluttered life; a river we all share. I am able to return to my core place of centeredness in Christ. Having quiet, reflective space to work through the chaos of my daily life by tidying restores the order of my rooted place in Jesus Christ. I am at rest again.
The Restorer of Our Souls Invites You
May I recommend to you, dear sisters and brothers, that if you are feeling overwhelmed, try the spiritual discipline of tidying. Whether you do a small area, like a drawer in the kitchen, or a large one, as I did my entire office, it doesn’t matter.
What matters is that when you do this, you are conscious of the companionship of a living God. When you do this, you are listening and talking together.
I believe your soul will be restored too.