Recently, I’ve been going through some boxes from my parents’ old house. They have been in my basement for years and I have always found it incredibly easy to have something else… anything else… I could be doing rather than sorting through them. That’s because I remember quite well sifting through all the memorabilia of their lives, and of my own early life, when they moved from that home. My brothers and I were quite disciplined, giving away or tossing a great deal. Much of that was not hard but occasionally, an item would pull strongly at my heartstrings, and I had to seriously debate whether to keep it or get rid of it. And then, every now and then, I came across an old book, a photograph, a letter, or some other memento that I knew I could never, ever abandon. These last items are the ones that now remain and which sit in the boxes in my basement.
Minimalists and those who are not particularly sentimental would say that if something has been in an unopened box for many years then it’s clear that you can certainly live without it. That makes complete sense to me, but by the same token, there’s not much remaining from those days and discarding what’s in these boxes is challenging. I’ll get through it, but the process has sparked a realization: the most important memories are the ones attached to the people I’ve cared about and who cared about me, the events that shaped me, and the ideas that influenced how I see the world.
Additionally, I have begun to look at everything I now possess as someday sitting in a box in someone else’s basement. I don’t want my kids to have to deal with all of it so we’re working hard to lighten their future load. I’m wondering about what’s most essential, what I can’t live without, what I need most of all. It turns out that that is a very short list. A list of just the basics.
What can’t you live without? Which possessions mean something to you and then why is that the case? Do you have photos, correspondence, artwork, souvenirs, books, old records or tapes, videos (even if you don’t have a VHS player anymore), greeting cards, or something else that you would struggle to discard? For me, the possessions are only meaningful because of what they represent and who or what they remind me of.
It is dawning on me just how little I actually need to survive.
In similar fashion, I have been reflecting on my faith life too. I’ve accumulated a lot through the years, some of it valuable, some seemingly less so, and if I’m being honest, there’s some clutter in there too. I finally got around to watching the series “The Chosen” and have been struck by the depiction of Jesus and his followers as a group that needed to essentially, and sometimes rather inelegantly, find their way through their mission. I could easily identify with this.
There are several scripturally accurate scenes in the series where the disciples are seeking advantage, jockeying for power, plotting their next steps, arguing, worrying, and trying to determine what the future might hold for them. In other words, they were acting just like regular people. Again, I could easily identify with this. By contrast, Jesus is shown as a quietly confident leader who resisted such human tendencies. You could conclude that this is simply because he was, well… God, but it’s also possible that his demeanor was shaped by his sincere trust in his Father’s accompaniment and the ultimate value of their work. Jesus, in this television series, often seems to elevate above the fray of his followers by keeping thing simple, by focusing on the basics.
At the conclusion of the second and most recently completed season, Jesus is preparing to offer his Sermon on the Mount speech. Among other highlights, in this speech, Jesus offered what we refer to as the Beatitudes. This simply stated, but profound instruction guide for life and salvation is breathtakingly free from complexity and strikingly clear and direct.
I think that it can be helpful to strip our beliefs down to the core values and central principles that can guide us and help us weather the storms of life. Jesus offered to those whom he encountered some important principles, such as inclusion, forgiveness, non-judgement, love, compassion, and concern for others.
Sometimes, it’s worth focusing on what we most need most of all. And to get back to basics.