Minimalism, at its heart, is focusing time, energy and resources towards more important aspects of life.
For most people, this intentional fixation results in a widespread clearing of clutter. “Life clutter” may take on many forms: physical belongings, technological fillers (such as alarms or apps), non-life-giving calendar items, even unhealthy relationships.
The beauty and allure of minimalism is it produces a sparklingly streamlined life in which priorities are well-ordered and there is room for that which is most important to each person.
For me, this means relationships. My relationships with my family and close friends are paramount, but so many times those closest to us receive our worst because we are over-committed, over-tired and over-stimulated.
Often, our loved ones only receive a fraction of the love, joy, support, humor, or friendship we have to offer because we are distracted. Busy. Stretched too thin.
Minimalism can help us give our best to the people who want to see it most.
The American Chaplaincy uses a term called “ministry of presence.” The idea generally translates to the act of blessing hurting people merely with a presence—by showing up. By being there. By offering tangible support, whether it’s in the form of a hug or a steaming bowl of soup.
I love the concept and name “ministry of presence.” I’d like to tweak the definition a little; let’s think of it more as a daily choice to be intentionally present in relationships.
As we move through each day, it is easy to be physically present but mentally and emotionally elsewhere. You know what that looks like: you might be in the room but disengaged from the conversation or the needs of those around you. Maybe you’re in the house but checked out and browsing online. Maybe it means you’re busy stuff-managing (organizing) again. Maybe it looks like forgetting that a friend has surgery scheduled this week.
In our busy, over-planned, over-stuffed world, it’s easy to forget that every encounter we have with another human being provides the opportunity to bless, to shed light upon, to pay attention to, whether they are in pain or not.
Embracing a simpler, clearer, more pared-down lifestyle can provide the energy and focus needed to concentrate on the people in front of us, whether it’s a dear friend over for coffee or the silky-haired child in my lap waiting for a story.
Less stuff, fewer commitments, and fewer distractions allow my main priority of relationships to shine through.
When life is slower and intentionally styled to value relationships, I am primed to interact better. To actively listen. To offer a fully formed thought instead of an absent-minded “hmmm.” To engage with a little bit of humor. To grasp someone’s hands and share a spontaneous prayer with them. To offer affirmation in the form of direct eye contact. The opportunities to share what you uniquely have to offer are endless.
Minimalism provides room for ministry of presence to be a way of life.
One of my favorite quotes is by a missionary and author Jim Elliot: “Wherever you are, be all there.” That’s ministry of presence. That’s the gift of being truly you, wholly present in every conversation.
Minimalism can clear the rubble to reveal you—able to be all you—fully present in each interaction. The ripples of such a decision will provide a valuable gift to everyone you meet.
Evelyn Rennich writes about her attempts to live modestly, frugally, and green at Smallish Blog. You can also find her on Twitter.