My house is a mess, a chaotic mess. We are moving in a couple of weeks and I am seriously purging and packing. I opened it up to our homeschool group online and a young woman, just starting out, came by to look at our things. When I say my house is chaotic, you have to watch where you walk. There are plastic crates stacked in the living room; my dining room is my packing table. There are items from my cupboards in the kitchen all over the countertops. There are piles of “things to keep” and “things to get rid of,” as well as piles of “just throw away.” I can barely function. And this sweet young lady, carrying her 1-year-old boy, says nothing of the mess. We walk into the kitchen so she can peruse the dishware and her first comment to me was, “Oh, I love your icons.” And I looked over at our mantle across in the family room area, the only place left that has not felt the packing chaos, and it was a place of serenity. There is the Blessed Theotokos, holding the Christ Child, looking down at us. There is Christ, Pantocrator, gently showing us his book of Scriptures and gently beckoning us closer; the many saints and Holy Day icons…we have at least 25 icons on our mantle.
I realized that this little nest of Our Lord, the Theotokos, the Saints…they are a bastion of sanity in life. I was drawn to just look at them, standing there in the midst of packing crates and packing paper, tape, and kitchen stuff! And I sighed deeply and just smiled. “ And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. (Matthew 6:4) I smiled because I was helping someone, and witnessing my faith at the same time; it felt wonderful. My husband has been worried that I was being forced to leave so many “things” behind and that, after 30 years, we would be moving with less than I brought to this marriage. I actually smiled and laughed at that, because I am finally at the point in life where I don’t want the stuff. I don’t want to have to worry about things because I want to spend my time with my family, not cleaning and dusting a big house full of things. I want small, simple, and humble…freedom from the burden of things. Christ exhorts us in Matthew 6:19-21: “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” And I really feel like I am getting there, closer to where I want my heart to be – surrounded by my family.
As I was going through things today, I was contemplating a dish and realized I didn’t actually need it but that I liked it; I also realized that God is asking me to give it up. I looked at the icons and realized the Heavenly Hosts are around us all the time. They are watching us, interceding for us, and praying for us. They encourage me through the words of others, and through their presence in the Church Triumphant, to make the right choices when faced with decisions. The greatest gift God gave us is the gift of sharing His life. We have been made “partakers of the divine nature” (2 PT 1:4) and when we live a life of faith, this relationship is deepened, furthering the process of our divination or theosis. This movement continues through our life and death and will not be complete until the resurrection of all mankind on the last day. Then our risen bodies as well as our spirits will share in the resurrection life and partake in glory, “We know we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.” (1 Jn 3:2) [God with Us publications, “What Eastern Christians Believe”]. I am certainly not a finished product, but a work in progress. Today I learned that this process of theosis begun in me is sparked now and then through the words and actions of others. Just bringing my attention back to the icons on our mantle took the drudgery aspect out of purging, packing, and moving, and brought me back to the reasons we are doing this – a new life. And it was so very easy to put that dish I was contemplating into the “give away” pile.
God has given me this incredible gift of faith and even though many would find me to be middle-aged, or even old (agh!!), I feel like I am just beginning to live what I believe with no compromise. I spoke with a man on the phone today who is a devout Catholic, husband, and father who is suffering through a divorce he does not want. He was lamenting how easy it is for most people to set aside their beliefs and choose the culture over those beliefs. I agreed with him and tried to offer him some comfort. But there is not much I can say, other than to agree with him. It is much easier to accept what we don’t believe, when their is societal pressure to do so. That is witnessed by the divorce rate, abortion rate, unmarried parenthood the norm; so may examples to cite. And it is a one of the prime motivators in why we are choosing to move. We are going toward family, but it is also an opportunity to do with less, to live simply, and to become the people we really want to be. My husband is free to choose a completely different career. We are also choosing to shape our daily lives in a different way; time is going to be spent enjoying our family and not so focused on working. We are also going to worship in a more family-oriented way. God has been giving us chance after chance, and we are taking this one and choosing the path that God is offering us. A step in faith, to be sure, but it is not out of fear, but with that same joy I felt when I looked up at the icons on our mantle; a joy deeply felt that God is with us, and with the cloud of witnesses there to comfort me. And I know this is right.