Life with Jesus

Tidying Up: Faith Edition

If you haven’t watched Marie Kondo’s Tidying Up on Netflix, well, you need to. Actually, know thyself. It will either inspire you and make you soar on the wings of eagles or make you want to sit in your closet on a pile of garbage and cry your eyes out.

I binge-watched it on New Year’s Eve and have been steadily combing through drawers and closets. The basic premise is that you purge first and then organize what’s left over and she has very specific methods for how to do both of those things. For a Type-A personality like mine, this feels like heaven.

As I’ve sifted through all of our belongings, I have found some real headscratchers. For example, in a cloth bin that was holding all of our extra vitamins, my broken hair dryer, a curling iron, and a plethora of headbands that I haven’t worn since W. was in office, I found a melted Skittle. How? How did a Skittle A) find it’s way to the bottom of that particular basket and B) how did it get melted there? I found a small plastic ET statue in a drawer and now The Kid and I are taking turns hiding it in each other’s spaces. I found a small broom and dustpan that we lost three years ago. I threw out a nightshirt that I inexplicably kept even though I stained it with hot chocolate and it looked like I was either dying or menstruating when I wore it. Even though we comb through our house once a year to get rid of things we don’t want, I’ve purged probably six bags of stuff that we don’t want.

It is magical.

I now have empty shelves in The Baby’s room. Every drawer in my house has things folded and sorted vertically so you can see at a glance what you have (yes, after two episodes, The Kid took it upon himself to arrange his own drawer).  I walked past a bookshelf today and had to do a double-take because it was so empty. Have we been robbed?

My inner-critic has been so quiet lately, I’m starting to wonder if the organized cabinets and empty bookshelves killed her.

It struck me in church yesterday that this particular brand of tidying up is exactly what I’ve done over the past couple years with my faith deconstruction.

You see, growing up, this is what I was taught about the beliefs that filled my spiritual house: “You either accept this house full of garbage, exactly like we’re giving it to you, or you burn the whole house down and be homeless. These are your only two options.” For years, I lived in this hoarder house, stuffed to the gills of things that fell on my head or tripped me up. Of course, I had moments of, “WHY DO WE NEED THIS?” when I’d had enough of the male only leadership piled in the hallway, but I’d never seen anyone do anything other than put up with it. Well, except for those who chose to burn it all down but they were almost exclusively shunned- our evangelical heads shaking with pity as we sat on our dusty couches surrounded by piles of self-righteousness.

This was my worldview and I was trapped in a spiritual house full of shit that threatened to drown me.  It wasn’t until I learned about racism that a tiny sliver of fresh air made it’s way inside and I realized that there was another way. Like Marie Kondo, a combination of doubt and well-timed humility (maybe I don’t have this all figured out like I thought) showed me a new way.

The true Marie Kondo way of sorting is to choose a category, collect every item in that category in one place, and then look at the pile of crap you’ve accumulated.

It took quite a while to really take stock of what had been stored in my spiritual house. It was a long, dirty, tiring process.

WHO STUFFED ALL THIS RACISM UNDER THE BED, YOU SCOUNDRELS?

My goodness, there’s a lot of heteronormativity in this closet. (ahem, pun intended)

Why tf is there a heap of anti-semitism and a melted Skittle at the bottom of this basket of vitamins?!

Where the heck is that basket of biblical infallibility? 

I need a ladder to reach all of that capitalistic, dog-eat-dog, pull yourself up by your bootstraps mess.

I yanked it all out and dragged it into the yard. Honestly, for a while, I just let the pile sit there, enjoying my near empty house (I kept a little God is real and Jesus was cool). I think I needed to heal from the hoarding but now I’m getting to the point where I feel like it’s time to start dealing with the pile.

The KonMarie way is that you then hold each item and ask yourself if it “sparks joy” in your life. She actually coos a little when she finds an item that sparks joy. If you’re still having trouble deciding, a secondary question for difficult items is to ask yourself if this is something that you envision in the house you want to live in.

This is what’s great: As I start to sort through the pile of faith-filled hoarder shit I’ve accumulated and inherited over the years. I’m only keeping what sparks joy. What do I want my faith to look like moving forward and does this particular belief belong?  Some things (like racism or patriarchy) are super easy to get rid of (or at least articulate that I don’t want them to have any place in my house).

Others are trickier because I can’t throw them out without something to replace them. While they don’t necessarily spark joy, I know if I throw them out, there will be a gaping hole left.

For instance, the guiding principle as far as ethics was concerned was always, “Do whatever the Bible says.” However, I’ve realized that’s not as cut and dry as I thought.  There are Christians who have convincing arguments for their LGBT+ affirming beliefs. There are smart, honest, people who have genuinely, prayerfully come to vastly different conclusions than the anti-LGBT+ sentiments that were laying around my inherited spiritual house. Well, dang it. If there are different interpretations of the Bible, then “doing whatever the Bible says” isn’t clear enough. What’s my new ethic? (Pro-tip: I haven’t fully articulated it yet but the base ethic will be not hurting other people).

For a while, I was so mad at how the Bible had been used as a weapon against me that I was ready to throw that thing out but there are other spiritual Marie Kondos out there, people who have already done this spiritual house cleaning thing, and they’ve found ways to keep the Bible and see it in a new light. So, we’re still journeying there.

Marie Kondo rightfully calls her process life-changing. My stress levels are down, I feel like I’m getting to do things I actually want to do (like hang with my kids instead of clean every room of the house on repeat). I get a little shock of joy whenever I see clear horizontal space in my bedroom, which is usually a pit of despair, where all papers and items we don’t know what to do with go to die.

This spiritual tidying up has been life-changing. I feel lighter, more agile, more flexible. Where as before, I had to bar the door to keep any items from leaving the house, I now stand at the front door with my shotgun in hand, ready to prevent any beliefs that I have not thoughtfully decided “spark joy” from sullying my clean house.

Believe me, I know I’m not going to get it perfect. I will probably spend years finding stray Skittles and jacked-up sexuality shoved at the back of drawers. I understand that I will likely never fully rid myself of racism, and when I find some, I’ll apologize, clean it up, and move on.

While this process has brought conflict and anger and tension, I am so thankful for it. May 2019 be a year of continued tidying.

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