Category Archives: Wisdom literature

Tidying Up After Marie Kondo

I’m going to admit it right from the start: I’ve watched a few of the “Tidying Up with Marie Kondo” episodes on Netflix, and I like it. I like the idea of decluttering and even “sparking joy.” I even fold my clothes her way now, and wow! I can fit so many clothes in my drawer now!! Here’s the thing though, I find it troublesome how many people on the show so readily bow to thank their houses or thank their clothes or pots and pans. Like Paul wrote so long ago: “For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things,” (Romans 1:21-23). One may say, “Chris, they aren’t worshiping man and birds and animals and creeping things. They are thanking their clothes and homes and stuff. What’s the big deal?”

JAPAN-KONDO
taken from thestar.com

The big deal is what lies behind the thanksgiving. Marie Kondo is Shinto as are 83% of Japanese.* Most tend to think that the Japanese are Buddhists, and they are, but more are Shinto. Only 72% of those in Japan are Buddhists.*  Being Shinto means by its definition that one is an animist. Animism comes from the Latin word for breath or life or soul. Thus the Shinto believe that everything has a soul or a spirit, and those spirits, known as Kami, are interconnected. “Kami are associated with various supernatural and sacred forms of life, including human ancestors, spirit figures, and the natural forces of mountains, rivers, trees, and rocks,”* and apparently houses and household objects. Thus to “thank” a house is not necessarily to thank an object in life, but to thank an object that is living.  It is easy to dismiss this and say that it is nothing, but I would not be so fast. I believe that Paul’s message to the Corinthians can be applied here. The Corinthians didn’t think that a syncretistic life harmed anyone. They thought that could believe in Jesus and still enjoy the food offered to idols. Paul told them to rethink, to think about the people of Israel. They ate the peace offering after part of it was offered to the Lord. In other words, they were, as Paul wrote, “participants in the altar,” (1 Corinthians 9:18). Such were the Corinthians, participants in the altar with the pagans if they sought to synchronize their religion with them. While Shinto allows for that sort of thing, Christianity is exclusive. We cannot synchronize our beliefs. “What do I imply then? That food offered to idols (or thanksgiving offered to a house) is anything, or that an idol (or clothing) is anything? No, I imply that what pagans sacrifice (offer thanks to) they offer to demons and not to God. I do not want you to be participants with demons,” (1 Corinthians 10:19-20).

While the Shinto do not have sacred scriptures, no known founder, and no doctrine, the Shinto are devout in their beliefs and practices. There are about 80,000 shrines that serve as community centers as well as purification sites and religious activities. In fact, the Shinto are typically nationalistic and often militaristic.* As stated, they are fine with synchronizing their religion with others, but not so much with those that have fixed doctrines, like Christianity, which is only about 2% of the Japanese population* (and much of that from outsiders).  Even the Shinto understand that Christianity is exclusive and that Christianity, as a religion does, not fit with Shinto ideology. It is something we Christians should consider.

That being said. . .what do we do with Marie Kondo and her thoughts on “tidying up” with things that “spark joy”? I think we can accept the principles without the pagan Shinto influences. However, we need to be careful with the idea of sparking joy. What may spark joy for one moment may not spark joy for long. We are after all materialistic beings. We want more and more, always looking for the next thing that will spark joy. “When your eyes light on it, it is gone, for suddenly it sprouts wings, flying like an eagle toward heaven,” (Proverbs 23:5). At the same time, everything that does not spark joy at the moment of cleaning is not guaranteed to never again spark joy. Christians do not simply live in the moment, but live for eternity. Thus we need to meter out our joy-sparkers with eternity in mind.

If there is an article of clothing that you no longer like, get rid of it. I don’t mind. But rather than thanking that piece of cloth, thank God for the grace of letting it clothe you and keep you warm. If you have 5 too man spatulas and they don’t spark joy, toss them. But don’t thank them. Thank God for the tools and the food that they flipped. After all, we are called to “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you,” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, italics mine).

As always, I would love your input.  Thoughts, questions, and comments are welcome here. If this blessed you, I am grateful for the opportunity. If not, I’m grateful you gave me a shot. If you think this would bless others, feel free to share it.

*All info about Shintoism came from:
Terry C. Muck, Harold A. Netland, and Gerald R. McDermott, eds., Handbook of Religion: A Christian Engagement with Traditions, Teachings, and Practices, (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2014), pp. 269-272.

All Scripture is taken from the ESV, published by Crossway.

Scarred for Life

When I was six years old, my parents took my sister, a friend of hers, a friend of mine, and me to the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago. I don’t remember the museum from that trip; what I remember happened after the trip. Sheila’s friend was dropped off, and my friend Bobby was to be next.  All of us were in my dad’s dark gray Dodge Ram. It had a beige topper on back, and on the bed of the truck, my dad had put down blue carpet stapled to plywood, and on top of that two long benches (complete with hinged tops for storage) which straddled the wheel-wells, and one short one to go at the front of the bed between the other two.  The topper was high enough that we kids could sit comfortably on the benches, but the benches were low enough to lie down on.  At some point in the day it started raining. When we got to Bobby’s house, my dad opened the topper (but not the tailgate) and Bobby climbed out. I was soon out as well to make sure he got safely inside. As I stepped out, I slipped on the wet metal bumper. All would have been fine if my dad had not had a connection for a CB antennae put on. When I slipped, the side of my leg fell onto that connection. I began to cry so loudly. My dad wasn’t concerned (after all, I’m told I was quite the cry-baby); but my mom got concerned when I wouldn’t calm down. She asked me to pull up my pant leg so they could take a look. When my pant leg got near my knee, it was clear that things were not okay. I had a triangular gash in my leg so deep one could see the bone. They rushed me to the nearest hospital (Community Hospital in Munster, IN) where I received 100+ stitches (inside and out).  A few weeks later I was back to playing around as always.

Let’s flash forward a few years. I still have that scar on my leg, along with a scar on my knee I got when I was a baby (fell on some glass). These scars feel completely different. The scar on the knee doesn’t bother me too much. It’s visible, but it simply feels like skin. The scar on my leg from the accident when I was six, that scar bothers me. For one it itches quite a bit, and if I am not careful I will find myself concentrating on that itch, doing my best to get it to quit–often times at the expense of having a raw leg. But more importantly, it feels wretched when it’s touched. So usually, I don’t actually scratch the scar, but the skin around the scar.  I have never been able to find the words to describe the feeling my leg gets when my scar is touched. I try never to touch it, and if someone brushes up against it, I instinctively recoil from the touch and that person. I hate that scar, but I’m stuck with it. Why God orchestrated all that went into giving me that scar, I may never know.

Here’s what I do know: many people have scars, some outward and some inward and often times it’s both. Some are scarred due to one event, while others are scarred because of a recurring event or a succession of events.  Like my scar, their scars leave them with an itch that needs to be scratched.  They constantly desire attention. They tickle the mind, tickle the memories. Before long, the scratching begins with the hope of stopping the itch. All focus is spent on stopping the itch. Almost anything is an option when that scratching begins; sometimes the itch leads to what many (un-scarred peopled) would be unthinkable actions. It sometimes stops, but sometimes the itch goes deeper and deeper. Before long the emotional and spiritual nerves are raw. I know how my leg feels when it’s been scratched raw, but I can only imagine the pain that these scars bring.

If you know someone who has these internal scars, don’t be surprised if they don’t want anyone to touch them. Don’t be shocked if that person recoils from you emotionally or physically because “you went there” and yet completely unable to explain the reason or describe the feeling. Generally speaking, it isn’t personal. It’s simply a defense mechanism. Generally speaking, like with my leg, there are no words that can describe how the scar has affected them.

That being said. . .the question that arises is: what do I do to help? Pray for their healing; go to God in the name of Jesus and plead their case. Sit with them in silence. Weep with them when they weep. Let them know you’re there (remind them often; remembers scars cause them to recoil and often they believe that their own recoiling causes friends and family to recoil as well). Remember the itch that comes, the desire to scratch, and understand that it is relentless. Encourage them through the itching, but don’t be angry or dismayed if the scratching commences. Love them through it.  Remember, “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity,” (Proverbs 17:17, ESV). You don’t have to heal the scar; you can’t. Only Christ can, so make prayer your default mission; pray for them and pray with them as often as you can.

As always, I appreciate any feedback. If I am wrong, please help me to see how. If I have been a blessing, please leave a comment as well. If this has been a blessing to you or you believe it would be to someone else, by all means share it on your social media page (just highlight the link, copy, and paste). I look forward to reading your comments.