“Better a little with the fear of the Lord than great wealth with turmoil.” –Proverbs 15:16
“Turmoil” is such a strong word. When I read about “great wealth with turmoil” I tend to think in a “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous” sort of way; of people with indescribable amounts of money making poor choices and ending up in the headlines on a regular basis. What I think we forget is how, compared to so many others on this earth, we have “indescribable amounts of money,” which we’re using to buy things, which are in turn sometimes causing us “turmoil.” Or, at the very least, the Message version: “a ton of headaches.”
For some reason I’ve been thinking a lot lately about our second apartment. It was a tiny two bedroom, but I loved it: it was nearly new, so it was incredibly clean, and it had a south-facing sliding glass door in the living area that looked out on the street, not another apartment. In hindsight, I keep thinking about how small it was, but it was just exactly right for our needs at that time. A living room, a kitchen big enough for a card table and two chairs, a bedroom, and a “bedroom” we could use as an office. (Also a big bonus: a laundry room, which was the deciding factor in moving there.) That apartment represents simplicity for me: small, clean, sparse, basic, yet pleasant–the sunny living room guaranteed that. We didn’t have a ton of extra “stuff” because we didn’t have a ton of money (insert “we didn’t need money, we had each other” type of quote here), which kept the place clean and simple. No turmoil, no headaches.
Let’s be real, though: that was before kids and dogs. If we had to fit our current family in that apartment, my feelings about it would be very different. It wouldn’t be simple anymore; it would be cramped, crowded, and difficult. (Where on earth would we seat everyone for dinner?) So I’m not about to complain about the space we enjoy now.
What I need to be careful of, though, is how we fill that space. More space doesn’t have to be filled. What’s wrong with just enjoying….space? Less turmoil, less headaches.
I asked my kids the other day, if they could keep just three things in their rooms, what would they be? My pack-rat son answered immediately and decisively: “My bed and my stuffed animals and my books.” Even he, who is loathe to get rid of things, knew exactly what was most important to him. (I won’t talk about how many stuffed animals and books there actually are.) If we can keep the “stuff” in our spaces limited to what it truly important to us, keep it pared down to “a little,” we can hopefully save ourselves “a ton of headaches.”