Life's Too Short For Ugly Pillows
by Teri Boedecker
"The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy, I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” John 10:10 (NIV)
A few years ago, I was straightening my room and arranging the throw pillows back into their places. Suddenly, I stopped and looked, really looked, at these pillows. “These are ugly,” I said to myself. “I don’t really like them anymore. Did I ever really like these?” I had indeed purchased them. Spent real dollars on them; although, truthfully, they were probably on sale. And they were within the color scheme of the room. But I just didn’t like them. And the longer I stared at them, the more I disliked them. And so right then and there, I decided life is too short for ugly pillows and I did not put them back into their places. But then, the place they had been looked empty and barren, like something was missing. I had a choice to make. I could either put these hideous pillows back where they had lived for several years. Or... I could choose to live with the emptiness. I chose the emptiness. Over the last year, I have spent a lot of time clearing places in my home of the things that no longer spark joy. (For those who do not recognize this reference, I suggest you check out Marie Kondo on Netflix. It’s life-changing.) I’ve passed some items along to my children or friends and the rest is now a rather overwhelming pile in my basement ready for the largest garage sale in the spring. As I was looking at this pile in my basement, I began to wonder, are there places in my heart where I have been adding ugly pillows? Have I chosen to fill spaces, simply to avoid emptiness? Am I choosing to stay in places when God is calling me out of them? Do I have a pile built up in my heart of mediocre things that is keeping me from the fullness God wants for me? Jesus says in John 10:10, that He came so that they could have life — indeed, so that they could have life to the fullest! Another version says, that they might have it more abundantly! That does not sound like He had anything mediocre in mind for me. I want that abundance! Not a fullness that looks like my basement with ugly pillows and discarded projects, but an abundance that looks like overflowing joy, strength, and beauty. So how do I get to that place of living in God’s abundance? First off, I believe everything from God is a blessing, a grace. I cannot manipulate God into giving me what I want, even the things He has promised me. His promise of abundance comes to me with His timing. Period. Full stop. The sooner I recognize this and believe it and accept it, the better. This means I trust God that He is good. All the time. His timing is perfect for me. Second, I believe this abundant life He promises is less about stuff and more about the fruits of the spirit found in Galatians 5. However, I do believe I can put myself in a posture where I can receive this abundant life that God promises. Just like the space left after I removed the pillows, I have to be ok with emptiness. I have to get comfortable with space. For me, this looks like silence and solitude. I have to create space in my life to be quiet and sit with God and let Him speak into my life. If I keep filling it with noise, even good noise, I can’t hear Him. And if I can’t hear Him, He can’t fill me and I won’t know what things are mediocre and what things are His extravagant gifts for me. This also means I can’t keep filling my calendar. If I keep filling my calendar with places to go and people to see and don’t leave time and space to be with God, I will miss out. This may mean I have to say no to good things, good people, good opportunities. The hardest “No’s” are to the good things. But choosing to say, “No.” to a good thing to create space for God’s Best thing, is the best “No.” I have to be willing to look at the mess. I have to be willing to stop and take inventory of my life. What am holding onto that I’ve held onto too long, simply because it’s become comfortable? Like the pillows, am I just going through the motions and not even stopping to see what is right in front of me? As I’ve begun clearing the clutter in my house, I’ve noticed a few patterns that I think translate into the clutter in my life. From these patterns, I’ve begun to ask these questions: Why am I hanging on to this? Is it out of fear? What am I afraid of? Fear of the unknown? Not knowing what is coming is hard. And sometimes I can hold onto things to try and prepare for any contingency. What if I need this down the road? What if I let this go and then find that I needed that? This is not putting my faith and trust in God. This is putting my faith and trust in myself. Fear of emptiness? Letting go of things will leave holes. Just like the space my pillows left. But is having something mediocre there, better than leaving it empty and letting God fill it with His very best? Whenever I feel empty, the uncomfortableness of that feeling can drive me to fill it with all sorts of things. But, if I choose to sit in that uncomfortableness with God, He will start to reveal to me the ways He wants to fill me. And honestly, no pillow, or anything else, can fill an empty spot like God can! Am I simply too busy? Do I need to create some space in my life for God to speak to me? We’ve already touched on this, but finding time to be still is so hard in our culture. But without it, it’s hard to know what needs to be cleared and what needs to stay. If we can’t hear God’s voice, we will continue to wander and fill ourselves with less than His best for us. Am I unsure of myself? Do I look to others to decide what’s best for me, instead of trusting God? Am I afraid of what others will think? What they will say? This is such a hard area for me. I do look to others far too often for reassurance and validation. I do believe that seeking wise counsel is biblical. But too many times I stray from seeking wise counsel to seeking validation and approval from others instead of listening to what I believe God may be saying to me. That’s why space, silence, and solitude are so important. Without them, I don’t know God’s voice and I am unsure if I am hearing from Him or myself or the other voices that I seek out. I have had to practice restraint in this area. I have had to purposely not ask others for their thoughts and opinions on what I should do. This is helping train me to listen and trust God’s voice within me. Does needing to be perfect keep me from moving forward? Another hard one for me. This goes along with the fear of the unknown. Not knowing future outcomes can keep me from moving forward. But when I’ve decided to move forward despite that, the need for perfection can keep me stuck. Taking a step without knowing means that I don’t know what perfect looks like. I don’t know the outcome, so I can’t know how to step forward in the “right” way. This means it will be messy. I don’t like messy. But I am learning that God’s abundance is in the messy. It’s in the unknown. It’s in the journey. As I was clearing the things from the rooms in our house, many times, I would stop and remember. I would hold an object in my hand and it would bring back a memory of a different time and place. The struggle was to let the object go, knowing that the memory would remain. The same is true as I begin to let God clear my soul. He is reminding me of how these things had a place in my life. They served a purpose, His purpose, to make me into the wholeness of who I was created to be, but they don’t serve that purpose anymore. It’s time to let them go and let Him continue to do His good work in me and through me. It’s time to clear space for His abundant life.
For Your Reflection… Where in your life do you need to clear space for the abundant life you desire? What excuses are you making for not letting certain things go? Talk to Jesus about it. He’s listening.
Teri is a wife and mother of 4 and is a certified spiritual director. She is part of the spiritual formation team and serves as the women’s ministry director at Richwoods Christian Church in Peoria, IL.
Teri’s passion is being a curious, prayerful, listening companion to others navigating the joys and sorrows of this life. She enjoys creating safe spaces for people to experience the grace and mercy of our loving God.