Tell me you’ve seen the Netflix show, Tidying Up.
If you’re in my life for any reason, you’ve heard about it. Because I binged it quicker than any other show and have totally adapted it to my winter goals. If you haven’t watched it, don’t tune out! I promise I won’t try to convert you. It’s an adorable Japanese woman who helps families declutter and organize their houses. I’m very aware that things like this are trendy, and what works today may not work tomorrow. But I also believe that it’s valuable to see what works for other people, and adapt it to your own life.
So if you’ve watched the show and are wondering: No, I do not thank my clothes when I give them away.
Throughout the past year of processing I’ve learned the value of what an organized space does for my mental health. Especially as a stay at home mom… the “home” is kind of in my job title. So I threw myself in this January. Things I’ve been wanting to tackle for years… well, they’re getting tackled. And I will not lie to you. I feel great about it. My socks and underwear are folded, and my clothes are actually being put back where they go. Throughout the process, I’ve found my anxiety level going down and that I’m working toward my word for the year of contentment. I felt like maybe this was my answer.
And then this week happened. You know what I mean. Where you feel like all the work, all the progress, all the growth you’ve made somehow disappeared and you’re not sure where you are anymore. I found myself impatient, anxious and irritable again. And I couldn’t figure out what changed.
I finally sat down to read the beautiful book my sister-in-law gave me; Gracelaced by Ruth Chou Simons. Look at the cover. The inside is even more beautiful.
You can check out here book here. In the very first few pages, she hit on exactly why I was feeling so unsettled. I could have written it myself. She writes, “Any notion I have of finding comfort and satisfaction in the perfection of my surroundings has simply show in itself for what it is: an idol of the heart that can neither sustain nor deliver.”
Yeah, ouch. That’s how I felt, too. In my very well-intentioned search for peace and order, I created an idol that no one would ever have to know was there. A perfection of my surroundings. Which, will not only distract and frustrate me, but it’s straight up impossible. Isn’t that just like us, though? To start off wanting to honor God in the small stuff, take care of ourselves and our things… and before we know it, we forgot God was supposed to be a part of it at all.
She asked a question that can be dug as deep as you are willing to dig.
What are the false shelters in your life?
I believe it matters that we identify what a shelter even means to us. The place we run to when we’re scared, or needing comfort. A familiar place that we know will surround and protect us. I’m gonna share my false shelters with you because I was amazed at my own list. And I hope that presenting this question to you offers you space to ask it of yourself. As you read through the words, ask yourself if any of them sound like something you’ve made a false shelter.
My home is not my shelter.
Comfort is not my shelter.
Contentment is not my shelter.
A calm environment is not my shelter.
Affirmation is not my shelter.
My husband is not my shelter.
A positive self-esteem is not my shelter.
Self-care is not my shelter.
My best friend is not my shelter.
Understanding is not my shelter.
Image is not my shelter.
Joy is not my shelter.
Control is not my shelter.
The list could go on.
The trick and the trap for me was that all of these things are gifts God has given me to enrich my life and promote and sustain my freedom. In fact, they’re godly influences and desires. But when I make my shelter, my safe place, my dwelling under anything else except the shadow of God Himself, it will fail me.
So what is it for you? What have you found yourself running to when things feel too hard? What have you hoped would protect and comfort you? That thing may not have let you down yet, but it will.
You may not be decluttering your entire house this month. It may be your success at your job. It may be that person who is always there for you. It may be a high. It may be a secret. It may be hearing compliments on your well-behaved kids.
He is the only one who can fill whatever the empty space is. It’s such a balance, though, right? This is what will take us a lifetime to learn. Jesus is the end-all and the be-all. He is absolutely everything we need. And yet He encourages practical, thought out ways that matter in thriving in our every day lives.
Can we be bold enough to ask God to call out the things that we’ve let take His place? Good or bad, are we willing to trade their temporary shade for the safety of an Almighty God’s shadow?
I’m praying for boldness and transparency for you now, wherever it is that you sit. As you breathe and read and wonder what this means in your own life. That as you turn your hands open to release what you thought would protect you, God would pour out more and more grace to sustain you.