I recently cleaned out my closet and found something hidden in the back. An old worn out pair of Nike Air Pegasus sneakers, complete with holes in the toes and an indescribable odor…well, maybe not indescribable. A cross between boiled cabbage and spoiled milk. My family has tried to throw these shoes away because they are way past their prime, and they are embarrassing, but I’ve clung to them out of sentiment (we’ve been places!) and practicality (they’re great for walking through a creek!). However, in cleaning out my closet I decided that it was time to let go of these stinky old shoes to make room for a new pair.
Sometimes the closets of our hearts need to be cleaned out too. I’ve been doing a bit of that lately. As the year beckons to a close with the days getting shorter, I’ve been reflecting on the attitudes, thoughts, and behaviors that no longer fit. I’m considering where I am being invited to grow with new attitudes, thoughts, and behaviors. What is being remade in the dark of the winter months invites new growth for the coming year.
How about you? Do you ever get tired of the same old thing? Tired of being on repeat…in a relationship, or a behavior pattern, or a thought loop? As we head into the season of Advent, what would it be like to let go of an old pattern and to consider what God might replace it with? What is God inviting you to?
As the days become darker, newness is being called forward…even in the darkness. As a moment of listening to your inner desires, name what may be “let go of” or shed or left behind to make room for something new. Now take a moment to reflect on what you feel invited to “put on,” or be open to, or what new behaviors are you to grow into.
For the season of Advent, consider this practice. Gather a planter or other empty container, fill it with soil, making sure the bottom is well drained. Place several narcissus bulbs (otherwise known as paperwhites) in the soil and water every other day, placing in a sunny location. Then on scraps of paper and write down the old attitudes, thoughts, and behaviors that you are allowing to fall away in this season. Crumple or tear them and discard them in the soil around the bulbs. In your journal, consider what new attitudes, thoughts and behaviors you are inviting to grow in your life. Or simply recognize an area…relationships, spiritual life, intellectual life, finances, habits of mind, which sense an invitation for growth.
We know transformation doesn’t happen overnight; it takes time. Placing your scraps of paper into the dirt isn’t magic, it’s symbolic. It’s a reminder for your mind and body that you are on a journey of continual transformation. This is the way of Christ, pilgriming into deeper and deeper forms of life. It is experiencing renewal again and again and again. For some thoughts, attitudes, and behaviors, this is a lifelong journey. A constant movement. For some patterns, it is wise to engage professional resources for this journey, be it a spiritual director, therapist, or doctor.
As we move toward Christmas, we are also moving towards Easter. Imagine what would happen if we stopped just one old attitude, thought or behavior so that we would be open to the new growth and life we are invited to. We put off the old and put on the new. What would that mean to you, to live a creative new life within your content? To live an outside the box life. A new life. Right where you are. Change takes time.
Like the bulbs planted in the soil, the bulbs of new life in your heart take time to unfurl. The things we discard and take off, transform into new life. I suppose if you look at it that way, God has been in the compost business from day one. Taking the discarded and disparate parts of our life and coaxing out something new and beautiful.
May your life be filled with the beauty of new growth as you let go of the old and welcome the new during this season.
Savoy Stevens, M.Div. is a spiritual director and minister in the Bay Area. She holds a Master’s of Divinity, with a concentration in Spiritual Formation from Portland Seminary and was trained, supervised, and certified as a spiritual director through George Fox University. Her postgraduate coursework includes Interfaith Studies at the University of Wales, Trinity Saint David. Savoy practices spiritual direction from an ecumenical, non-denominational perspective, welcoming directees from all faith traditions. She approaches direction sessions with curiosity and acceptance, listening deeply for the resonance of the Divine in the grit of everyday life. She asks questions and offers her undivided attention as a reflective tool for increasing your sense of the Divine. She considers spiritual direction a radical act of resistance in a culture consumed with certainty, overexposure, and noise.