You have a lot of time to think when you’re in the hospital.
Just before Christmas last year, I lay alone for 6 days in a room in WellSpan Good Samaritan. That may not sound pleasant – and it wasn’t – but I also thrive on solitude. So I took the opportunity to reflect on certain areas of my life that I wanted to confront in the new year. I had issues I needed to deal with head-on in my…
- physical health
- mental and emotional growth
- spiritual well-being
- financial fitness
…to name a few.
I knew that I needed to attend to some important matters I’d been avoiding. That also meant I needed to let go of some things that really don’t matter or were even hurting me.
What Gets in the Way?
Hebrews 12:1 says, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” (NIV)
Those words, everything that hinders, convict me. These are things that aren’t necessarily sin. Things that, in and of themselves, aren’t necessarily wrong or unhealthy. Nevertheless, they are things that hold you or me back from successfully and definitively completing the race of life.
What do you think? What do you own, how do you spend time, and who do you associate with that frustrates rather than fulfills your goals? This is a good time to dive deeply into that question. Jesus’ words in Matthew 6:21 never rang truer for me than they do now: “’For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.’” (NIV)
Where to Look
We’re talking about simplifying life in order to focus on true priorities — to have, to do, and to become all that we are meant for in 2022. In this context, to be the most effective followers of Jesus possible.
I imagine three areas where we might find what “entangles” us and so trips us up on the track of discipleship, righteousness, and holiness.
OUR PHYSICAL SPACE
Do we own an excess of material goods? Or things that are unnecessary or just unhelpful. Whatever you possess really possesses you. You have to tend to it, take care of it, protect and safeguard it.
Every now and then I purge my closet to discard or donate clothes that are too big, too small, too damaged – or that I simply can’t or won’t wear.
How about that piece of broken furniture you say you’ll fix, but you know you never will? Or those knick-knacks, ornaments, and other decorations?
I love real books. But lately I’ve been giving away those that I’ve read or will never read. There are still just too many packed away, but fewer than before.
Simply, the less stuff that draws your attention, the more focus you can allow for the important matters of life and growth.
CLEAR THE MIND
We live in an age of TMI – Too Much Information. The experts call it information overload, or infoxication, and infobesity. It all results in foggy thinking, which then leads to bad decision-making and bad choices. Also consider the moral quality of what you’re reading, watching, or listening to, and you need to discern, “Is this what Jesus wants me to fill my mind with?”
Which is better? A violent movie, or a documentary that shows you a whole new dimension of God’s amazing creation? Celebrity gossip, or an article that teaches you a new skill to help you secure that promotion? Pornography, or a program that you can discuss at dinner with your kids?
It comes down to knowing what makes you happy, moves you closer to your dreams, and fashions you more into God’s image.
LIFE AND RELATIONSHIPS
I don’t advocate any break-up of a healthy relationship. At the same time, I’ve learned to be careful about who I spend most of my time with.
How are you doing with that? Does the company you keep inspire you or tire you? Do they make you feel your best or your worst? Which lift you up in hope and which drop you in despair?
The Apostle Paul tells the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 11:1, NIV), “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.” I’ve learned that if I want to be more like Jesus, I need to find other people who speak, live, and act like him. Nobody is perfect, but many are better representatives of the Lord than I am. They’re the ones whose character I want to rub off on me.
Simplifying life is a lifelong discipline. It takes time. It also takes courage as you confront your own pleasures, habits, and treasures to select what is and isn’t working for you – and discarding the hindrances.
Have grace with yourself. Show grace to others on the same path. And be committed to the long journey of discipleship and holiness. Join me in moving freely through 2022 with clarity, confidence, and peace.