As Christmas approaches, do you look around your home and wonder where you will put any new gifts you receive this year? Do you have piles of stuff or stacks of paperwork laying around because you’re not sure what to do with them or where to put them? Maybe your home is neat and tidy, but your spiritual and emotional life is cluttered with past experiences – good and bad – and you can’t figure out how to organize them.
Recently on St. Joseph’s Workshop, Fr. Matthew Spencer, OSJ reflected on how to declutter our spiritual lives, and the tool that the Church gives us to do it.
Fr. Matthew said, “The thing I’ve been thinking about is that people’s lives are cluttered not only with stuff. People’s lives are cluttered not only with things. I’m not so interested in decluttering your house physically. But I am really, extremely interested in how you’re decluttering your spiritual life and your soul. And if you look at all of the accumulated experiences – some that you want to hold onto and treasure, and some really bad, some really negative that we hold onto with bitterness and resentment.”
But in many ways it is easier to declutter your home than it is to declutter your spiritual life. Why? As Fr. Matthew explained, “You can’t just let go of an experience, like ‘Oh this doesn’t cause me joy, therefore I’m going to discard it.’ As if somehow it is like that old sweater in my closet that I can give to Goodwill or St. Vincent de Paul.”
“So the question is, if we have to declutter our life, if we have to purify our memories and somehow come to an appreciation of how our lives are to be lived and seen in the light of the Gospel, how do we do it? What do we do with these memories? What do we do with these experiences?”
“First let me say I’m not a psychotherapist, I’m not a counselor,” Fr. Matthew clarified. “And I’m not here to process all of those. But I’ve been thinking about one tool that the Church does give us, that Jesus Himself does exhort us to practice, that can really help when our lives are difficult.”
Fr. Matthew explained that one way to approach negative experiences, present struggles, or fear of the future can be found right in Scripture. “What does Scripture tell us to do?” he asked. “We give thanks to God in every circumstance, Scripture tells us. We give thanks to God for all things. Why? It’s not because we’re glad and happy that everything happened to us. I’m not happy that somebody was rude to me, I’m not happy when people don’t treat me right. I’m not happy when I go through trial, illness, or sickness.”
“But when I give thanks and when I recognize that this experience was allowed by God, and therefore there is something good that can come out of it, it leads me to greater dependence on God,” he continued. “It leads me to greater reliance upon our Lord. And when I do that, I become happier. I become more joyful and more ready to share the witness with others.”
“So let’s be grateful in all circumstances. It’s a duty, it’s an obligation, but it’s not only us fulfilling some obligation. It’s about living the life that God wants for us. And that, my friends, leads us to authentic happiness.”
Listen to the full reflection below: