Over the last few days I’ve been thinking a lot about one aspect of the spiritual life that gets very little attention. It affects several dimensions of our everyday work, but is rarely at the forefront of our consciousness.
There is the practical sense of storage: where do we put the Sunday School supplies? Can we mix them with the supplies for The House? Why does the Buddhist group have so many bins? Where are the wine glasses? And why are we storing the fire pit in padremambo’s office?
A lack of storage space produces an immense amount of anxiety. We can’t always find things. It gets sloppy. And it becomes very hard to move around in the rector’s office.
There are plenty of ways we can begin to solve the problem of storage.
The first, is to get rid of lots of stuff. We don’t need the old cables and computers and magazines and the chemicals now underneath the stairs next to the kitchen. I think I could probably rid myself of a few of my books, even though they are like old friends. Get rid of stuff – let someone else have it. Then perhaps we’ll have more room for storage.
Sometimes things are just messy. So then we need good bins. Having clear containers keeps things separated, allowing us to discern what we have and what we don’t, helping us reduce the need to buy more stuff. Then we open up space for more storage. And we might find that we have a bit more room to move around in.
Sometimes we just need to label the storage space we already have. This allows us some clarity, giving us a bit more time to find what we really need.
If this all seems a bit too practical for the spiritually minded, let me clarify: our spiritual life is often about how we store things: do we place our frustrations upon other people? Are we carrying around too much stuff? Do we find that our lives are a bit too messy? Or do we just need some labels?
Now – I’m not advocating that we should not have some mess: after all, if we are a growing church, we’re going to have to rethink storage. Just being forced to think about “storage” is itself a sign that the spirit is inviting us to change. Being able to say, “I can live with a little mess” is as important as saying “this is such a mess that we’d better do something before it gets more messy.” Either way is fine. The first step might merely mean knowing what we’re storing, where we’re putting it, and is it what is best for us.
We’re thinking a lot about storage because we’re growing. It’s a bit painful – and our space here at church is going to change. But its a good change, one that demonstrates that the spirit is working here.
But what kind of stuff do you have? Where are you storing it? On your bodies? In your daily drink? In your restlessness? Can the church help you get rid of it? Or just do you need permission to say, “hey – its ok. you don’t need to keep it. Just throw it away. Give it up” or pray that “I need some more storage space. Perhaps the spirit can help me make some more room.”
I believe it can. It does, however, take attentiveness to just see the mess, and how we’ve got things in the wrong bins, and that we could consolidate a bit or just take some things over to good will.
I’ve often seen that people who keep taking on other people’s burdens have a hard time regulating what they eat; instead of caring for their own bodies, they are running around for other people. And while they destroy their own bodies, nobody really gets any better. Their burdens become the physical weight that they carry. They end up storing other people’s illnesses in their own bodies.
The church can be a place where people unload what they’ve “stored.” Admittedly, I know of plenty of people who when they are feeling burdened the last place they want to be is church. I can understand it – if church is a place of guilt and work rather than of rest and joy, why should anyone bother? Perhaps the church has to sometimes rethink how it stores the love of its people.
In the early church, Christ was considered a “manager of the mind.” He was the storage manager. He was the one who found places to put stuff. Taking sorrows, emptying them, placing them in places where they wouldn’t get too messy, ensuring there would be more space for us to move around in.
His promise was that there would always be enough room.