After a decade of sharing my closet with a parade of five babies, my littlest baby turned three and moved out into a big boy bedroom. I took apart the crib, and immediately sent it off to Goodwill. I moved out the baby clothes, blankets, stuffed animals and diapers. Only a glow-in-the-dark bunny picture is left and a few empty storage racks. I was ecstatic….”I have my closet back!!!” I assumed I would fill it up with the clothes I had been squishing to one side of my closet….”think of all the room I will have for my clothes now!” But after a week or two went by, I realize something…I have all the space I need already- on ONE side of the closet. I have all the clothes I need…I don’t need more space or more clothes. I’m okay.
It’s amazing how uncomfortable we are with open space. Free space. We automatically assume we need to fill it up. My closet is like my life…I can feel uncomfortable with open space. I feel like I need to fill every minute…to have a free day is to have a day waiting to pack with exciting activities- or is it? Can I learn to be content with open space? Can I find contentment in my empty half of a closet?
There are four little things I keep in mind:
First, resist the urge to fill the empty space. I reflect on all I already have and I see it’s plentiful. I choose contentment. I choose to leave my empty space alone.
Second, free space serves a purpose. Sometimes we don’t know what the purpose will be, and that’s okay. I’m enjoying sitting in the silence, waiting, wondering and enjoying the empty. In time, the space will serve a purpose- even if it’s only to remind me I can be content with less. Less, not just in my closet but in all areas of my life.
Free space allows us to dream. We have room to imagine and create. And free space provides room for something new. I could convert this part of my closet into a a prayer room- with prayer lists and maps. I could turn it into a private photo gallery or art wall to display my kids projects. I could set up a recording studio for a podcast or I could even install a stackable washer and dryer (what luxury!). I could do many things. For now, it will stay empty and I will be content and I will dream.
Free space is good. It’s rare to find an open schedule, free time, an unused drawer or empty closet. It’s valuable. I’ve changed my thinking- free space is not bad, it’s good. I take a time to savor the empty.
In times past, we were limited by few opportunities. In times past, we were limited by financial means. Today we’re overwhelmed with opportunities and we have the financial means to pursue them. There is hair coloring, teeth whitening, pedi and mani’s, microdermabrasion, orange theory, and also the pursuit the latest fashions; clothes, shoes and handbags are a must, and top it off with Kendra Scott earrings. We can put our kids in any sport we imagine, they can play club sports and travel regionally. We can travel the U.S. and even the world affordably. There are birthday parties, family events and school fundraisers. (Not to mention true necessities; doctor appointments, dentist, oil changes and an endless list of “to do” items.)
Friends, we are bombarded with opportunities. Many of these opportunities have now become norms and new standards in society. There’s a barrage of activities and pressure for pursuing external appeal and perfection. What then will limit us? We’re not limited by time, we are not limited by finances.
Perhaps all that’s left is our own self-imposed limitations. Perhaps we can aspire to values which have more power and more appeal than the glittering lure of fixing of the external body and saying “yes” to every presented opportunity.
Let me ask you, are there other things that are important? Other other things we should value? These values compete with the energy and time we spend on external things. What other things could we be spending our time on? Do we value rest? Do we value play? Do we value quiet?
Let me ask you, what do you look like on the inside? How much work and attention have you been giving to the condition of your soul? Is there peace? Are you living with joy? What about contentment? How are your relationships? Are they safe, honest and authentic?
Let’s take a moment to examine our inner world. Let’s take some time to evaluate our schedule and how we’re spending our time. Are there some important things that we have become to busy for? Perhaps it’s time to impose some self limitations on all the opportunities around us so we have time and energy to pursue things of greater value.
Most of us do not know what rest is. We know exhaustion, but not rest. Exhaustion is not rest. We are busy, busy, busy with days filled from dawn to past dark, then we collapse and tune everything out with Netflix. It’s not rest to lie down spent and drained of all our energy. Rest lives in the space between activity and exhaustion. It’s rest that prevents depletion.
God created the earth and everything in it and then He rested. He didn’t rest because He had nothing left to give after a full week of work. No, He rested because rest is a response to work well done. Rest gives us space to reflect and enjoy the work we did all week. Rest allows us to remember and feel joy over the highlights and good things that happened during our week. Rest allows us to reset our feelings of disappointment and frustration and creates hope for a new week. It’s time for us to look back over our shoulder and enjoy the accomplishments from the past week. We also recharge and focus for the week ahead of us.
Rest is a biological reset button. We need to push it every day. Every evening and also every week- we push the big reset by setting aside a day for refreshing. We can reflect on all that was good, erase all that was bad and fill our souls with fresh hope, joy and expectation for the days ahead.
Rest to reset- every day, every week, every month, every year. It’s essential.