Originally published in Rethink Church. Published here with permission.
IT’S ALMOST CHRISTMAS!!! I hear this echoing in my head from years past—from my children’s years, from my own cries, and from my crazy Aunt Nancy (I love you!) who still calls me at zero-dark-thirty to wish me a Merry Christmas.
What I also remember is making lists of what I have bought for the in-laws to make sure everybody got the same quantity and the same monetary value. Making lists for my children so one was not valued in presents more than the other. And stressing out over finding that “perfect gift” for my oldest son who seemed to be unable to express desire for anything. ANYTHING. That is stressful.
But maybe he had the right idea all along! He was unattached to things.
Non-attachment to things of this world is a value greatly revered by the world’s great traditions. What if we slowed down, let non-attachment suffuse the Christmas* season, and began again? What would that mean? What would it look like in our lives?
What if we emptied our lives of the values of materialism, comparison to others, and over-abundance and instead filled it up with the values of spiritualism, self-inventory, and enough? What if we took a journey of emptying rather than filling?
The dichotomy is pretty stark. Empty vs. full. Nobody really wants to run around on empty or having nothing. But there is a trick. By slowing down our lives and refocusing our lives, we can begin again with an attitude pointed towards spiritualism, self-inventory, and being satisfied with enough. Adopting these three counter-cultural traits, creates freedom for new things to happen.
Simplifying creates room for more!
More what? More interior room to listen to that which calls you. More room to see those around you. More room to understand great joy. And more room to feel the world’s great grief. After listening, seeing, understanding, and feeling, there is one more thing—by simplifying, there is more room to offer great love in action to a hurting world.
By emptying, we create room. By making room, the possibility of personal transformation is created. By being transformed, the possibility of action is created. By committing acts of love, mercy, and justice, the possibility of world renovation is created.
And before long, we who were emptied have been filled with love.
Chaplain Terri Stewart
*Christmas season in the secular sense of the word as that time from the day after Thanksgiving to January 1.
©2013, essay, Terry Stewart, All rights reserved
Photo credit ~ Jeff Weese via Wikipedia and under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license
REV. TERRI STEWART is The Bardo Group Sunday chaplain, senior content editor, and site co-administrator. She comes from an eclectic background and considers herself to be grounded in contemplation and justice. She is the Director and Founder of the Youth Chaplaincy Coalition that serves youth affected by the justice system. As a graduate of Seattle University’s School of Theology and Ministry, she earned her Master’s of Divinity and a Post-Master’s Certificate in Spiritual Direction. She is a contributing author to the Abingdon Worship Annual.
Her online presence is “Cloaked Monk.” This speaks to her grounding in contemplative arts and the need to live it out in the world. The cloak is the disguise of normalcy as she advocates for justice and peace. You can find her at www.cloakedmonk.com, www.twitter.com/cloakedmonk, and www.facebook.com/cloakedmonk. To reach her for conversation, send a note to firstname.lastname@example.org