“I had everything I’d ever wanted. And yet, it still wasn’t enough. I still had this gaping whole in me, that I had been unable to fulfill by accumulating more and more stuff….”
I had every intention of finishing the book I’ve been reading this evening. James was at our friends’ house, the kids were in bed, it was a much anticipated quiet end to a rather chaotic and crabby day. However upon his arrival home, he settled in to watch a (what I hoped would be boring so I could keep reading) documentary whose title alone made me put down my book and pay attention.
It’s on Netflix, so go ahead and watch it (after you finish reading this of course.)
We live in a pretty small house with 3 young kids, and I do fantasize about throwing every random small misplaced and broken (yet desperately loved!) toy away multiple times a day. We’ve never accumulated a vast amount of possessions, due in part to our relatively small living circumstances, and yet I’ve always been fascinated with the ability to just live with less. So Longbourn, you’ll have to wait for another quiet night.
As the men shared stories about life before their conversion to minimalism, instead of being excited to purge my house of even more toys, clothes, and
books (Wait..no. Never the books) my heart grew heavy for these men. It genuinely surprised them when they realized their life of career, status and consumerism didn’t bring them the true happiness they craved. They had everything they wanted. And it wasn’t enough.
So naturally, they decided, the opposite must be true. Getting rid of all that extra stuff that left the promise of happiness unfulfilled will certainly fill that whole eating away at them inside. And it might. For a while.
It’s noble and I definitely understand and embrace the premise. But what these men failed to notice was that their identity still revolved around their stuff. “We are the minimalists.” Their whole message is about finding true happiness, not in having stuff, but now in NOT having stuff. It’s just the negative of the same image. Just as the accumulation of wealth leaves one feeling satisfied for a time, the dissolution of wealth and accumulated goods will indeed leave one feeling happy. For a time. But it won’t last. The hunger will always return.
The documentary had at least one scientist (I can’t remember his exact title) who actually theorized that the biological need for more must stem from our ancestors who needed it to survive. We continue to crave more and more, but the accumulating of that “more” can never satisfy because for some reason we no longer need that biological urge for survival. I’m sure in his science-y lingo it made sense. But it’s just. not. true.
We do, as human beings, certainly have this inner craving. We all have this hole that we try to fill. You might deny it or not even see it, but deep down, underneath layers of things, clothing, gadgets, knowledge, exercise, food, sex, houses, money, experiences, it’s there. We feel…incomplete. So we better ourselves. We make sure we “self-care.” We surround ourselves with people who agree with us. We spend all our time helping other people. We fight for our political beliefs at the expense of friendships. We get rid of all of our stuff. Why? Because there’s something missing.
We are trying to fulfill a chasm in our soul caused by an ancient, severed relationship, and on our own, we are completely incapable of doing so. Without our trust in Jesus’ life, death and resurrection, our relationship with the God of heaven and earth, beginning and end, Alpha and Omega, will be broken. We will feel the dull ache for more. Contentment will eternally be just beyond reach. That longing you feel will only be fulfilled in Jesus. Not in accumulating things, nor in the abdication of that accumulation.
So by all means, remove the clutter from your lives. Get rid of things you don’t need. But also remember, “Sometimes all simplicity does is mask our pride and self-dependence. If we take a great deal of satisfaction in how little we need, in how much we reject abundance, simplicity becomes nothing more than an asceticism that, as theologian J. I. Packer puts it, is ‘too proud to enjoy the enjoyable.” (Hannah Anderson, Humble Roots)
You were meant to enjoy God, and life with Him. No matter how hard you try, nothing else will ever satisfy.
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. 11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. 13 He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. 14 I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. (John 10:10-15, ESV)