People talk about whitespace. Spiritual whitespace, interior design whitespace, personal whitespace. Minimizing, scaling back, intentional quietness, less is more kind of mentality. There’s a push for more of this, especially as we in the western world are pressed for time, maxing out our budgets on stuff, and filling every second of our days and every ounce of our emotional energy into relationships.
The achievement of whitespace is a choice. Get rid of some of your stuff. Hang less pictures on your walls. Spend more time reflecting, alone in conversation with the Lord. Limit the time you spend with people in order to maintain a healthy relational balance. These are decisions that an individual makes to have more margin in life.
What if whitespace was forced upon us? Would we be as happy about it as if we made the choice ourselves?
This was my literal whitespace for 12 days. White walls, white ceilings, white light fixtures, white appliances.
Twelve days in a house with four children, minimal belongings, no furniture, no internet, no friends.
I started out pretty excited about this. A good challenge always thrills me, but the romantic ‘thrill’ quickly dissolved by the time we ate our first meal. Trying to corral our two youngest to sit still on the floor and our two oldest to hold their plates in their laps without spilling on the freshly cleaned carpets was enough to push me over the edge.
I just wanted my stuff.
I never would’ve considered myself someone who found contentment in my belongings until they said I couldn’t have them and it nearly drove me crazy.
So, what did I learn?
I find way too much satisfaction in my earthly possessions. No, I wouldn’t have admitted to this if someone asked me. In fact, most of our things are second-hand pieces or wedding gifts, so I’m not talking about big ticket items.
Value isn’t necessarily determined by price or memory, value is dictated by the owner. I can have a diamond ring given to me by my husband, worth more than anything else I own, but if I don’t have a bed to sleep in, my bed becomes more precious. The value of our belongings isn’t in the item itself, it’s in the heart of the one to whom it belongs.
Isn’t this why Jesus said, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” My heart can hold a lot of treasures, and they aren’t always the Best Treasure.
Misplaced satisfaction is a breeding ground for discontentment, anger, and bitterness. If only we had a table, then I wouldn’t have such a hard time taking care of these children…If we could just sleep in a bed for one night, then I could get caught up on my sleep and stop yelling at everyone…God, can’t you just make something go smoothly for us? You’re always making life more challenging and I’m tired of it.
You can see the progression from discontent all the way to bitterness toward God. Yes, God could have worked differently than He did, but He didn’t. And instead of grumbling and complaining, I should be more quick to rejoice in the fire of purification, knowing that He is working something that I can’t see, something way more precious than the comforts of my home.
A rightly placed satisfaction dissolves discontentment and replaces it with joy. The power of God’s Word and the work of the Holy Spirit move wonderfully in the hearts of God’s people. We visited a church on the first Sunday in our home; the sermon was from Matthew 6, about seeking first God’s kingdom, and how God takes care of the birds and the lilies, so how much more will He take care of us.
I had been feeling abandoned, as if God wasn’t caring for me. God is never absent. What might seem to us as neglect is often the most tender care we need.
My satisfaction needed to be in God, in His kingdom, and His purposes. He left me with nothing so that I could see the true state of my heart. Once I started to refocus my heart, my whitespace became a joy.
Having nothing to do gave me lots of time with my children. We played on the floor, we went to the beach, we read library books.
Sleeping on the floor, cooking with two pots, and having no internet….still we were living way better than most of the world. I’ve seen how people live in Asia, West Africa, the Middle East, and parts of Central America. Many of them live with barely anything and they do just fine. Somehow in my western mind, I feel entitled to comfort and easy living. When my satisfaction was rightly placed, I began to think outside of myself and my perspective changed.
Joy is found only in Jesus.
When will I learn this? I don’t know. Probably never fully, this side of heaven. But I do know that God will use whatever tender care is needed to teach me when my satisfaction gets out of line.
My whitespace became a precious teacher.