John and Jackie have living room furniture. They bought their house two and a half years ago and, since then, the living room has been empty – kind of a catch all for anything they brought in the house until they figured out to do with it. The main furniture item in the living room – for two and a half years – has been the vacuum cleaner. Then Jackie’s parents sold their house in Florida and downsized to a smaller home in Pennsylvania. They had extra furniture so John and Jackie drove to Pennsylvania, loaded up a couch, end tables, and two upholstered shell chairs and now they have furniture in their living room. When we were there recently we sat in the living room and talked to each other and it was a good place to be.
John and Jackie are doing what many people in their 20’s and 30’s do. They upsize. They graduate from college, get a job, get married, get a house, and fill that house with furniture. Sometimes they move to bigger and bigger houses which require more furniture. They fill their lives with things and friends and are very busy doing and taking care of all the things. This is the same thing my parents did at this age and the same thing that Tom and I did.
Tom and I, my sister and brother-in-law, Jackie’s parents, and many of our friends, are doing the opposite. We are downsizing. Our houses are too large and too full so we are getting smaller places to live and passing furniture on to the next generation. We are also emptying our lives in some ways. The activities that filled our lives when children were at home can be replaced by more intentional activities. We make time and room for the activities and the friends that really matter to us. Work fills our lives until we retire.
As we get older our lives continue to empty. The places to live get even smaller until sometimes they are just one room. The things that will fit into that room are fewer. The older generation dies until we are the older generation.
But this does not mean that these years are empty. When we get rid of so many things that have demanded our attention we find that there is room for the most important things. As we require less space for us, we find there is more room for God. Even if God has always had first place in our lives, we find that there is more and more room for his love and his grace. We are more grateful for his mercy as each day slips by. By emptying ourselves we can be filled by the Holy Spirit until there is so little of ourselves left that there is only room for God.
And somehow that is enough.