One of the first assignments my spiritual director gave me was to come up with an image that best symbolizes my present spiritual condition.
An image came to mind almost immediately. I saw myself buried under a mountain of clutter – piles and piles of papers and boxes and boxes of miscellaneous stuff. I transferred the image in my head to the computer screen using Photoshop. (I always love a good excuse to play with Photoshop.)
As I created this image, I realized the clutter in my life consisted of more than just the endless piles of paper and other physical items. It also included the various distractions that keep me away from my priorities.
For example, I could spend hours mindlessly surfing the Internet, getting locked into political fights with friends and total strangers on Facebook, or actually clicking on “news” articles about Miley, Taylor and the Kardashians. I am particularly likely to do this when I’m anxious or subconsciously avoiding a task on my to-do list. I added a computer to the graphic, with the words “Click Bait” on the screen.
Junk food could qualify as nutritional clutter, I decided. When I put it into my body, it clogs my arteries and accumulates on my hips and around my waist. I added a bag of chips to the image.
My calendar presented another source of clutter. Some of the commitments really matter to me: time with my husband, a meal with family or friends, the autism support group I facilitate, singing in the church choir. But several other commitments have crept into my schedule because I can’t say no to people who must think I don’t have enough to do now that I’m retired. I tossed a To-Do list onto the pile.
I added a rope to the image to represent the tug-of-war over everything from my time to my personal values caused by competing demands and continual conflict.
Underneath the papers and boxes, I placed several boulders with labels on them – fear, resentment, pain – to represent the steady stream of anxieties and resentments that keep me awake at night and pre-occupied during the day. I added some baggage for good measure.
Sticking out of Clutter Mountain, my arms juggled several balls in the air: family, friends, volunteer work, the house. A couple more balls had been dropped and were nestled on the ground at the bottom of the heap: my writing, self-care, God.
So how would God react to this image I just created? Am I about to provoke a bolt of lighting? Seriously, my sense is that God already knows what’s going on and might even be glad to see me acknowledge this reality.
God is there, of course, but after creating this image, I can see vividly how clutter blocks my spiritual path.