Saturday, 14 February 2015

Skipping Stuff: A Thought for Nearly-Lent

My most deliciously gleeful moment last week was when I phoned a local skip company and hired a four yarder to be delivered next Tuesday. I tried to keep the 'squee!' out of my voice as I discussed the merits of the varieties of skip on offer, because, well, only weirdos get over-excited about skips, don't they? 

When I told a friend about my skip-hiring success later on that morning, who reacted every bit as exuberantly as I felt, I re-evaluated my own self-disdain. Skips, I concluded, are exciting, and the hiring of one should be a cause for celebration.

Don't get me wrong, this isn't some crazed, environment-wrecking dump-fest I am planning, but rather a crucial stage in my long-running Operation Declutter, which started some time ago. I have Freecycled and charity shop donated stuff, I have recycled and repurposed stuff, I have given stuff to visitors (yes, really) and  have disposed safely of toxic stuff. But, quite frankly, some stuff just needs to be thrown away, and that's the stuff I'm dealing with this week. It's stuff that has long outworn its purpose, stuff that stopped working long ago, stuff that is so broken and sub-standard that giving it away isn't an ethical option, stuff that I didn't have time to sort through two and a half years ago when we moved here because I was completing an incredibly intensive Master's degree and being ordained in the same week so it just got shoved in the garage, stuff that just takes up space that could, and should, be more thoughtfully and creatively filled. 

So I'll be lobbing bits of broken MDF furniture gleefully into my skip next week. The other thing that will happen, of course, is that Lent will start as the joy of pancake tossing turns to the sober recognition of Ash Wednesday mortality. This blog will go quiet, as I've decided that my Lent this year will be a time for creating a bit more space in my day, and in my soul, to be aware of God's presence with me, and to quieten down so that I can hear the whispering voice of the Holy Spirit on the spring breeze. So I'm giving up social media, and blogging, for six weeks staring next Wednesday. If you know me, you'll know that I am a great fan of social media, and, in truth, spend just a little too much of my time messing around online. (I'm also giving up alcohol, but I foresee that being significantly easier than living without Facebook). 

It struck me, as I was  anticipating the arrival of my skip earlier, that Lent is a bit like an Operation Declutter, or it can be, if we let it. It can be a time to sort through the stuff of our lives to see what needs to be repurposed or revamped, what has outlived its usefulness to us, or was never particularly fitting for us in the fist place, but might be genuinely good for someone else. We can sift out what needs to be broken down into its component parts and reassembled, carefully, or taken apart so that each component can be useful or beautiful in a new place (like the bicycle wheel that became part of a flower display in church last year). Some stuff might simply need to be skipped. The point of giving things up, at least partly, is that by decluttering one area of our lives, it gives us a place to stand so that we can sort out the rest more carefully and lovingly.      

And, of course, Lent leads us to Holy Week and to Easter, where we find the ultimate cosmic Operation Declutter. Jesus is the friend who shows us how we can give our stuff new meanings and purposes, the visitor to whom we can give our extraneous stuff, the stranger who comes and takes away the stuff that is no good for us, the pharmacist who disposes safely our toxic stuff, the engineer who knows how to take apart the components of our broken stuff to see how they might fit back together again or find a new purpose somewhere else, the skip into which we can throw the stuff that is just simply broken beyond repair, the confidant who stands with us in the space that we have cleared and thinks with us about how this new space might be more creatively and lovingly filled. 

'For our sake, God made him to be stuff who knew no stuff, so that in him we might become the new stuff  of God.' (St Paul, 2 Corinthians 5:21, with a few amendments that I think Paul would quite like.) 

Have a deeply blessed Lent and Holy Week, so that you may know the exuberant joy of Easter.