I was watching the Netflix show Tidying Up based on Marie Kondo’s books and saw a section on working with kids to go through toys and it reminded me of lessons I learned from working with my daughter on cleaning her room when she was little.
- If she went through her toys, books and stuffed animals and wanted to get rid of something that I was attached to, then I had to own that attachment and move the item to my space instead of requiring her to keep it when she was ready to let it go.
- It was always unpredictable what she would keep and what she would want to get rid of and I needed to learn not to assume that what I thought she would value was what she would value. It was important to let go of my preconceptions and let her process and choices stand on their own.
- (and an over-arching theme of the first two) I had to let go of my own ego when it got in the way of her process. Even at a young age, she knew if she was ready to let something go. Any time I second guessed her, I risked undermining her developing clear ideas of how she wanted her space and what was important to her. She knew, and her choices were right for her.
In short, I had to learn to walk my own talk.
I wanted her to learn how to clean up after herself, how to maintain her own space, and how to manage her possessions in a way that served her.
I came to the task of teaching her with preconceived notions of what she would want to keep based on my own experiences and my own emotional needs. I ended up learning a lot more than I ever taught.
In one of today’s lessons from the Daily Office Lectionary we have a reading from 1 John:
Now by this we may be sure that we know him, if we obey his commandments. Whoever says, “I have come to know him,” but does not obey his commandments, is a liar, and in such a person the truth does not exist; but whoever obeys his word, truly in this person the love of God has reached perfection. By this we may be sure that we are in him: whoever says, “I abide in him,” ought to walk just as he walked.
~1 John 1:3-11
It is difficult to walk my talk at times. I may think that I want to bring my daughter up to be independent, to be able to make her own decisions; but in that moment, when she was little, it was very hard to realize that if I really wanted to teach her those lessons I would have to let go of my own ego, my own idea of the Right Way to clean, or to live.
If I sabotaged her process by telling her that she had to keep a certain book or toy, then I would be crippling the very independence I hoped to foster.
That was a very hard lesson to learn.
So, in today’s reading we have a simple instruction: look for people who walk their talk when it comes to following in Jesus’s footsteps.
I would say that the process of learning to have one’s ideals match one’s actions is lifelong. It’s very easy to think about living into the words and life of Jesus and a lot harder to actually do the work to make it happen.
As a kid, I used to wonder why we said the confession of sins every week. How much trouble could I get into in one week? I tried to be a nice person and not be actively mean to anyone, why would I need to confess?
As an adult I realized that the ritual of confession does more than wipe my slate clean for the week. It, and the entire communion service, serve to remind us of the things Jesus asks us to do in our daily life. The process of reading the lessons, saying the prayers, making confession, and celebrating the eucharist brings us back to the essentials and reminds us of the fundamental relationship between us and God.
Learning to live into the ideals that Jesus gave us, is like me trying to teach my daughter how to clean and maintain her space. We come to it with preconceived notions, with our own egos, with the desire to be right.
Letting go of all of our egos and expectations is an ongoing process. Having a ritual that reminds us of the ideals we are trying to manifest in our lives can help us more consistently walk in the footsteps of Jesus and learn the lessons he tried to teach while he was on earth.
If we have drifted away from the two great commandments, if our work out in the world has ground us down, then coming to church or engaging in deliberate ritual of prayer can be a touchstone, a way to reset our relationship with God and the world. It acts a reminder that our goal is to walk in the footsteps of Jesus, to walk his walk.
Bible citations are from Bible Gateway using the NRSV text.
Kristin Fontaine is an itinerant Episcopalian, crafter, hobbyist, and unstoppable organizer of everything. Advent is her favorite season, but she thinks about the meaning of life and her relationship to God year-round. It all spills out in the essays she writes. She and her husband own Dailey Data Group, a statistical consulting company.
© 2019 Kristin Fontaine