What Is Enough

What Is Enough

My household is engaged in what a Swedish friend of ours terms a “death cleaning.”  Among her people, apparently, this is what one calls the sort of deep purge that one makes of one’s possessions so that one’s heirs don’t have to do it after one has passed away.  None of us are ill or anything; we’re just downsizing.

We have not managed to do our death cleaning all at once.  We rented a dumpster a couple of months ago and filled it with dilapidated furniture, broken treasures we had been sure we would one day fix, old files, outdated spices and dry food items from our pantry, and so forth.  We lived with the results of that purge for a while, and now we have rented another dumpster for a second go.  We have covered the bottom of it already, and I have no doubt we will fill it before we’re done.

Even though we thought we were “living simply so that others can simply live”, we have acquired a lot of “stuff”.  We have acquired a lot of stuff while many in the world go homeless and hungry.  And these are just the tangible things.  Our death cleaning makes me aware that being white, middle class Americans, we possess a lot of nonphysical stuff as well.  We have power and credibility.  Doors open for us that other people find barricaded.  Our status as citizens is not questioned.  We are able to move freely about, unimpeded by suspicion and stereotypical assumptions (unless, of course, you count the assumptions about women.)

What would it look like to do a “death cleaning” of the less tangible things?  How might we let go of our power and our privilege, so that the younger generations don’t have to do it for us?  It would mean radical change, radical reorientation.

The reality of what the planet needs in order to be self-sustaining shows us that righting global wrongs means not only lifting everyone to a place of having enough but letting go ourselves of our propensity to take more than enough.  This is very difficult in a culture in which the prevailing attitude is that we can help ourselves to anything we can afford.

I don’t have an answer to how to willingly give up our stuff, tangible and intangible.  I do know that what would make it possible is being certain of where we belong.  This world in which we live is not our final home.  We don’t belong to the principalities or the institutions around us; we belong to Christ.  We dwell in Christ, and so any worldly abode is a passing, ephemeral thing.   Being firmly rooted in that understanding puts a whole different spin on what is important and what is enough.

I wish that throughout my middle years I had been more aware, so that I wasn’t now trucking pile after pile of things I don’t need to the dumpster and ultimately to the landfill.  It’s sobering and embarrassing.  And I hope that in future, as I rest with Christ in prayer, I will be able to let the vast majority of my brothers and sisters who are struggling just to survive shadow all my decisions.  For this is the love to which Christ invites me.

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