- Ben Capps
Spring has arrived in Philadelphia and the signs of its arrival are littered throughout the first floor of our apartment.
I have a large bucket on my counter that is slowly dripping dark, rich, cold brewed coffee into a glass mason jar. My left arm is marked by an uneven shade of pink; the result of the sun’s impact on my recent arm dangling out the window car rides. Dirt is crusted under my fingernails, baring witness to my attempts at growing food in the ground. And as I write this my toddler girl is whisping in and out of the open door that leads to our tiny balcony. Cool morning air is swooping in, preparing us for the coming heat, and we are thankful.
The final manifestation of spring that adorns our living room is dramatically less romantic. This last sign is an indicator not only of our external activities but also of our internal sentiments. In the corner of the room is a heaping pile of bulging trash bags full of our “stuff”.
This all started when my toddler girl, who was cleaning out her play kitchen, discovered that she had two tea kettles. Recognizing the ridiculousness of owning two tea kettles she suggested that we give one away. I was inspired by her philanthropy and began to wander around with her identifying other duplicate toys she might like to give another child the opportunity to own. It was not long before I realized something — in our pantry, we also have a duplicate tea pot. Just in case.
Just in case what?
Just in case one tea pot just won’t cut it for our morning tea some day? Just in case I get bored of one? Just in case we want to do a quick round of “I’m a little tea pot” with actual tea pots?
Thus began the great purge of 2015.
There has been a therapeutic value to challenging ourselves to pare down our physical belongings to only that which are beautiful or necessary. Beautiful or necessary. That’s our criteria. And then we pare down again. And again. And again. There seems to consistently be another bag we can fill. Another object purchased under some warped perception of utter necessity, another pair of shoes, another broken frame, another unused toy... the list goes on. And left in the absence of all the clutter, waste and excess, we find beauty, simplicity and freedom.
I threw that tea pot in a bag today. I hope someone who needs to heat water for tea will find it and use it. I also hope that the great purge of 2015 will be an outward manifestation of an inward commitment. I hope it helps us slow down, breath in the spring air, throw tea parties with our one working tea pot, and roll around in fresh grass.
I hope it allows us the freedom to be gratuitously hospitable and foolishly generous. I hope it causes us to think deeply about the world and the complicated network of relationships that our “stuff” links us to. I hope that when we are consumers, we can be conscientious ones and that in our conscientiousness, we would consume less.
I hope that this leaning into simplicity, would allow our hearts and minds to find peace and rest. Not in material things, but in our hope for a world that is reconciled with God’s kingdom. A world
where our minds are not distracted by our complex webs of stuff and the relationships this stuff ties us too, but rather are set on simplicity, beauty, justice and peace.