Oh the craze of Marie Kondo, the Japanese organizing consultant and author of The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up. She has the country folding their clothes like origami and looking for sparks of joy in the mess of a categorical closet clean-out. Her method, known as KonMari, has followers purging closets and piling clothes. If the big, fat mess you make doesn’t give you a panic attack, then you proceed to touch each article of clothing. If the sparks don’t fly, the item does, but not until you thank it for its service (and people think I am weird for talking to my cats).
I was looking at my closet and thinking how insane it would be to pull everything out. I mean, I hung it up already. It’s already clean and ironed. It seems kind of sadistic to pile it like a heap of dead leaves. After all, how much joy am I going to have from wrinkling perfectly ironed clothes and then rehanging them? Then, I worried I wouldn’t find any sparks in my pile. I would be like a homely girl that doesn’t get a Valentine. No spark for you. How sad would that be? (It’s very sad. I’ve been that girl). I could be inspired to donate my entire closet, and end up joyless with no origami in my dresser.
Pondering her method, I wondered what it would be like to take a mental inventory of our lives and discover what sparked joy? Would we start a fire? Saint Catherine of Sienna said, “Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire.” But that wasn’t about deciphering joy, it was about discerning who God created you to be. Sometimes that seems even harder than cleaning out closets and organizing tchotchkes. Whenever I examine my life, trying to answer the weighty question of purpose, I feel a spark of panic, not joy. Maybe Kondo would have me thank that question for its dubious service, and send it on its way. Perhaps that works with the material, but when it comes to setting the world on fire for God, we don’t want to dismiss the unique purpose he created for us. “And we know that for those who love God, all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose,” (Romans 8:28).
By the world’s standards, Saint Catherine’s prediction to set the world on fire would look like a Time Magazine cover, or maybe it would mean we would get our own television show like Kondo. So often, that’s what we think of when we imagine someone setting the world on fire. We think of fame, fortune, glory, notoriety, and nobility. We think of flash, not the forsaken savior betrayed by the very people he came to save. We forget the way of Jesus — the narrow path of his lonely walk on earth; the humility of his birth; the hush in which he performed his miracles – the small ways he made a big difference.
Likewise, too often, we don’t think of the meals we cook for our families as significant. We don’t consider the favor we did for a friend. We take for granted the simple kindnesses we spread, not seeing that we have planted seeds of love, mercy, and hope in the most ordinary places. We sometimes miss the sprout, bloom, and even the harvest of the smallest kindness we share, because we think to set the world on fire we have to be a spectacle.
When we focus on being the sparkle of a firework, we miss the small spark that may have changed someone’s day. We underestimate the way the acts of love we share fold into the crevice of someone else’s heart. It might not be as neat and tidy as Kondo’s magic, but to touch another life, even in the humblest way, will spark joy. And from there, the world will be ablaze.
I love the idea of setting the world on fire through small acts of kindness. As someone who folds her clothes like (bad) origami, I think kindness might only be easier, but infinitely more rewarding! Would love to know how you plan to spark joy today!
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