About two years ago, I read a book called 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess by Jen Hatmaker. The concepts Hatmaker examined in those pages were not new to me, really, but they were passionate about minimalism in a way to which I had not been previously introduced. As I sat around my safe little townhouse that fall, I was itching to stage my own mutiny. I stared at my extra possessions as the chains they had become and longed to be free. I remembered the glorious movement made available to me when I lived on a sailboat with only a duffel bag to my name. Those were the days and I wanted them back. I wanted to be free to serve with my material things and not to be served by them. Nearly a year later, I embarked on a journey of minimalism with all the gusto of a woman with some time on her hands and some wildness in her heart.
It was quite an adventure, that whole “living with little” experiment. I sold anything I could not possibly see myself using on a daily basis and moved into a wee studio apartment built onto the end of a house. I had electricity and water and wi-fi, so it was not completely off the grid (which I would LOVE to try sometime), but it was minimalism in so many other ways. I had no dishwasher, no microwave. The kitchen held only a small apartment stove that was too small for my pans; the bathroom contained a cabinet and a tiny corner shower that was smaller than any of the ones I used at summer camp all those years ago.
I had no furniture save for my bed, a chest of drawers, and a comfy chair. I ate sitting on the floor. I hosted a couple of “floor picnics” and invited friends to join me for dinner. (I have learned to set a blanket as well as I can a table.) I had given away most of my books, which was one of the hardest things to let go. I did not watch television. I did not have a bedroom, just a big open room where all of my life behind closed doors had to take place every day. I bought little. I gave away a lot.
And now I am here: in a much larger place in a much larger city, feeling happy but naked with all of this open space and SO MANY DOORS. I had gotten used to having two doors total. Now I have ten. Yes, I just ran upstairs to count them all. (I have an upstairs!?!)
I have more stuff now than I did last year and my own mutiny taught me much about possession. I have learned that I do not need the stuff, but it is okay to have the stuff, and if I am blessed with the stuff, I sure better be ready to use it and/or lose it. Good stewardship is not ownership. It is being willing to have open hands so that you can catch what comes and let it go when needed. Nothing profound about that, really.
I cannot say this past year was earth-shattering in its truth, only satisfying. The day I got the keys to the front door, I sat on my stairs in this new home and prayed that the Lord would use my space and my stuff for His glory. I would not have prayed such a prayer unless I had learned a thing or two about being uncomfortable and inconvenienced in my own walls over the last year. I am pretty comfortable being in this bigger, brighter (but not necessarily better) place. I hope others are similarly at ease in these walls, walls for which I am grateful as I return from my mutiny against too much and embrace the freedom that comes from holding all things less tightly. I do not own what I possess. It is all gift and it is all given to be gifted. Amen.