“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” – Romans 15:13 (NRSV)
My husband and I graduated from seminary, welcomed our first child, and moved to Iowa to begin our first ministry position all within one month’s time. We went from living in a modest townhouse with very few belongings to living in a sprawling parsonage with four bedrooms and a grand staircase. We were the recipients of lavish generosity upon arrival in our new home, and soon we had managed to furnish the entire house.
Over the course of the eight years we lived in Iowa, we filled every storage space, every drawer, and every cupboard with stuff. We kept way too much of everything, but we had a large enough home with plenty of built-in storage, so we could tuck it all away whenever anyone came to visit us. We would cram drawers full and force them shut, hide blankets and school papers and notebooks in cupboards and close the door on the chaos.
When the time came for us to leave the home where we’d raised our kids for eight years, we owned way too many things. We packed it all up and moved it to our new home in Nebraska, a home with about one-quarter the square footage and almost exactly zero storage space. We downsized a lot, got rid of furniture, sifted through the papers we had kept from the kids’ classwork, and gave away a lot of books, but we still overflowed with stuff.
After seven years in our home, we’ve continued getting rid of things little by little, but we still own far more than we need and more than we can efficiently keep organized. It’s almost like our lifestyle has created a black hole in which objects of unimportance get sucked in and can never leave. We have operated with an excess mindset instead of an abundance mindset, which means junk flows into our lives rather than goodness and hope flowing into the lives of others.
“We have operated with an excess mindset instead of an abundance mindset…”
This season of Advent, I want to give up excess to make room for hope. Paul wrote a blessing in the book of Romans asking God to fill the people with “all joy and peace in believing” so that they might overflow with hope. When we find our joy in God and peace in faith, we don’t need to cram every corner of our lives with excess–whether it is an excess of belongings, an excess of commitments, or an excess of anything else; we find hope by receiving the peace and faith of Christ.
Strangely enough, by getting rid of excess we make room for abundance, and abundance flows out of us and blesses others. Abundance is not about storing things up, making sure we have enough for that possible future circumstance, or filling the lack in our lives with junk that will never satisfy; abundance is about receiving the hope of God that multiplies, spills over the top, and flows out into our neighborhoods and communities.
May we find the courage in this season of expectation to declutter the excess from our homes and hearts so that the hope of Jesus might be born anew in us.
Prayer: God of hope, help me move from excess to abundance. Give me eyes to see what is bogging me down. Give me the courage to recognize what is cluttering up my heart and my view so that I might receive your joy and your faith, and so that hope might overflow. Amen.