For the past three and a half months, I have been considering what it means to empty my life. Many of you have been walking with me through this year of “empty.”
To be honest, when I chose the word, I imagined cleaning out closets, ending commitments, even repenting of sin. The safe kind of “emptying” that Jesus might ask a person to do. But I never thought my year of “empty” would lead me to put my house up for sale.
But that’s what happened when I started evaluating my life, getting rid of good things that were robbing me of time to do great things. I love my house. The labors of love that have happened inside these walls produced tears and sweat, and they brought me closer to my dad, the chief laborer. I saw God provide for me in miraculous ways inside this house as my family and friends literally nursed me back to life following cancer.
I even had my heart broken in this house. More than once.
Really, it came down to this. Though I enjoy mowing and raking and weeding and mulching and picking up sticks and cleaning out gutters, doing it alone takes hundreds of hours a year. And I’d rather be doing other things.
It’s not a choice between secular and sacred things. I set up those false dichotomies for myself before. Once, I lived in a very small apartment that required almost no amount of attention so that I could pour more of myself into my ministry working at a church. Not that there’s anything wrong with prioritizing; it’s just that I failed to see anything but the official, full-time ministry I was paid for as work that God was calling me too.
I see it much differently now.
The year of empty has meant paring down my church ministries, as well as other activities, like mowing lawns and cleaning gutters, so that I have time to do the things God has given me a passion for: writing, gardening, cooking, running and spending time with the people (and pets) I love.
As you may suspect, there is something incredibly liberating about doing this kind of purging. In fact, when it came time to “declutter” for the real estate photos and possible showings, there was almost nothings else to get rid of. My sister Sierra told me that the decluttering advice is only for people who are cluttered to start with.
But there’s also something incredibly terrifying about an empty life, as well. When I do fewer things, they each become more valuable. The stakes become higher. Failure, then, becomes riskier.
I also have had to admit that I’m not a person who can do everything, as much as I have tried to be. I’ve been on edge the past few months because the harder I try to empty my life, the more I want to keep it full.
It’s like my very self is being poured out.
And yet . . .
So, selling my house was the logical next step to living an emptied life. I won’t be homeless; I’m still planning to garden. I even hope to stay in the same neighborhood. I’ll just be living in a condo, instead of a house. And someone else will be mowing my lawn.
I hope they love what they do.