Recently I began watching Marie Kondo’s Tidying Up show on Netflix. She’s a Japanese organizing consultant and author whose method of tidying (KonMari) is all about sparking joy, keeping items in one’s life that spark joy and intentionally choosing a place for them. Her method is partly inspired by Shintoism, the traditional religion of Japan. Folks certainly have their opinions about her and the show, good and bad. (If you’re on social media, you may have observed people posting pictures about clothes folded more compactly, drawers organized, bags of belongings being donated, etc.)
For me, KonMari has been a fascinating process to try. Perhaps the biggest realization was that I’ve lived in 10 different dorm rooms, apartments, and houses since moving out of my parents’ house at 18. Some of those places didn’t have curtain rods or toilet roll holders (so those needed to be purchased), or had 1970s green shag carpet that never felt clean no matter how much we vacuumed (cheap area rugs all over that apartment it was!) All of this to say, I’ve accumulated stuff that was necessary in certain places that just isn’t anymore. We tell ourselves to hold onto items because we may need them one day. But sometimes we start drowning in stuff. So it’s been helpful to think about items that spark joy and be grateful for them. And it’s been just as helpful to think about items that don’t spark joy (or just aren’t needed anymore!), feel thankful for their usefulness, and donate them for someone else.
All of this reminds me of how things can go at church. Sometimes we hear laments (it’s happened in every congregation I’ve ever been part of!) that certain programs or groups aren’t what they used to be. We stew in that anxiety. We lament the loss. In some cases, we cling to that thing that once was with tenacity. But what if we felt grateful for the past, and were also willing to let things go if they no longer spark joy?
Here’s what I mean, a ministry mentor told me that one of the greatest things he did for his congregation was give them permission to let their bazaar die. (And before I go further, I do not think that the Holly Fair at CFC falls into this category!) Okay, now that that’s been clarified, the congregation he served had done this bazaar for years. But when the time would come around every year to have it again—he would hear nothing but complaints. So he began asking questions. For instance, did the bazaar make the congregation come alive? Or feel a sense of togetherness as the Body of Christ in this particular place? Was it helping the community? Nope. Their pastor didn’t kill the bazaar or force them to decide to kill the bazaar. But by him just asking questions that needed to be asked and making observations, the congregation let the bazaar die. Because in all honesty, it had already. And then they moved onto other ministries that made them come alive because there was finally room to do so (not just room on the calendar, but in their hearts.)
So in the end, I’m grateful for Marie Kondo. Not because we have to follow every piece of advice she has. (I mean, having only around 30 books at home? That’s per subject, right!?) But because her method helps us consider what does bring joy to our lives and what has run its course. We can even apply these thoughts to church. Because in the words of Christian Theologian Howard Thurman, “What the world needs is people who have come alive.”
(This Week’s Thoughts 1.24.19)