Thursday, February 14, 2019

Sparking Joy - Jesus or Your Old Immersion Blender?


Marie Kondo has become a household name these days, and not without good reason. Her mission to tidy up the world (I may be exaggerating a little here) is something I can really appreciate. Besides the fact that clutter is just brain numbing, a simplicity that calls for being mindful of what you use and don't use in a culture fenced in by stuff makes a lot of sense. In fact, this kind of simplicity is so needed that Kondo has become something of a proverb without even meaning to. Messy desk? Kondo it. Organizing your closet? Do it Kondo style. Overwhelmed by the amount of magazines accumulating on your coffee table? Only keep the ones that spark joy.

But therein lies the rub.

Mindful simplicity can be a good thing, even Jesus lived so sparsely that he had no bed to call his own [1]. But do we think his decisions on what to own and not own hinged on whether they sparked joy? I'd be so bold as to say not. The reason being that this preoccupation with piles or absent piles of stuff is an ancient human struggle with a name. It's called materialism.

Materialism nearly obliterated a nation who lamented not having a God they could see - a God whom they could touch and smell, hear and speak to directly. So, for the sake of blessed comfort for their senses, they tossed some gold together in a shape they could do all the things with. Fast forward to our current day and we find ourselves in a cultural conundrum of being distracted with minimizing everything so we can be um, less distracted.

Now joy, I've heard explained, is the ability to look at any circumstance square in the eye, know we're not alone, and so say "it's good to be meeting here with you today" [2]. I suppose we could look at our semi-needful immersion blenders and feel that way, but can we look at them or anything else in our cluttered homes and say the following?
"You will make known to me that path of life; In your presence [not my simplified life] is fullness of joy; In your right hand there are pleasures forever." (Psalm 16:11)
 "The prospect of the righteous [not the immersion blender owner or un-owner] is joy, but the hopes of the wicked come to nothing." (Prov 10:28)
"These things I have spoken to you so that my joy [not the joy of your perfectly folded underthings] may be in you, and that your joy may be made full." (John 15:11) 
"For the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking [or even simplifying our lives to the bare minimum], but righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit." (Rom 14:17) 
"Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials [not closets full of your favorite clothes], knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing." (James 1:2-3)

Now what I'm not saying is that there's no pleasure in the material. There is. In fact, the beautiful way of God in the material is that its momentary spark of joy reminds us of the real and forever joy. Something like tasting bits of a holiday feast before the actual feasting, or the smell and feel of spring in the air just before it fully blooms.

What I am saying is that we, as Christians, need to remind ourselves that we are of an upside down kingdom where the real-to-us is just the taste of the-really-real of what's to come. So essentially, give the credit of joy to where it's due. As C.S. Lewis aptly explained, " All joy reminds. it is never a possession, always a desire for something longer ago or further away or still 'about to be.'"
"And though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, obtaining as the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls." (1 Pet 1:8-9)
So what's the real magic in tidying up? The real magic is when that joyful spark in it leads us to the fullness of joy.


[1] Luke 9:58
[2] "Bringing Up Joyful Children series" Dr Bill St. Cyr, Ambleside Flourish Podcast