A few weeks ago, I was busily preparing for another event at The Perch, setting up tables and chairs, getting out the snacks, and praying over the space. I kept getting distracted, though, by how long everything was taking to set up. I couldn’t find the snacks I knew were there somewhere, and every time I moved one thing, three others fell over. That’s when I realized that in my busyness during the last few events, I’d done a lot to clean the visible parts of The Perch—the tabletops, the top of cabinets, and the white board—but I’d neglected to clean and organize the unseen parts. The picture above shows the contrast.
So although I knew it would take longer, I began the work of cleaning out the cabinets and drawers to make setting up in the future a bit smoother. There were things out of place, hastily thrown behind a closed door to hide them. Some things needed to be thrown away, no longer needed or past their expiration date. Others were in the right place, but had been put away sloppily, creating a disorganized mess.
If you’ve watched the popular Netflix series Tidying Up featuring Marie Kondo, you know what I’m talking about. During her process of helping people organize, she has her clients empty drawers, closets, and cabinets so that they can see the magnitude of their belongings. It’s amazing how much we get used to stuffing away out of sight and out of mind.
This exercise got me thinking about my own life. How much time do I spend on the aspects of my life that are seen by others—physical looks, social media presence, and so on—and how little time is left for the important inner work of tending to my heart, emotions, thoughts, and transformation? The truth is that I have sometimes treated my inner life as something that I can throw behind a closed door, ignoring it and instead tending to those things people will actually see. As a result, I’ve also experienced how those things behind the door always find a way to seep out and make themselves visible. Undealt with grief turns to anger. Unfelt emotions turn us into robots. Unattended work leaves us spiritually stunted.
It makes me think of Jesus’ harsh words for the Pharisees: “What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are so careful to clean the outside of the cup and the dish, but inside you are filthy—full of greed and self-indulgence! You blind Pharisee! First wash the inside of the cup and the dish, and then the outside will become clean, too” (Matthew 23:25–26, NLT).
I don’t know many people who would say they want to be hypocrites. And yet there are so many aspects of our lives and society working to incentivize us to take care of all the visible parts of ourselves and very few encouraging us to do the difficult inner work so that we can experience the true lives of freedom and abundance and thriving that we were created for. Meanwhile, if we started with the inside work first, we’d see the effects on the outside as well.
Maybe especially in this season of Lent, we are invited to make space in our lives to deal with the inner things: our feelings, motivations, expectations, thoughts, and goals. To do this, we need to spend ample time considering: Who am I really?
If you’re looking for tools to help you grapple with this question, I want to invite you to our spring events at The Perch, which are all focused on this question in various ways. I highly recommend our upcoming emotional awareness workshop called “How Not to Lose Yourself” on April 27. You can see all our events here.
Amy Jackson is founder and director of The Perch.