A Pillow For My Head

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I just bought a new dress. I don’t like it.

It plain doesn’t look good on me, and I wore it already so there’s no returning it. I thought it would be great because it has a fun collar with loose ties and then cuts a little shorter in front, just below the knees, and angles longer to the back. That’s the style these days if you don’t already know.

I’ve thought a lot about what Jesus said about pillows and coats and things that in our day and world are not just necessities, they’re things that need to be precise, just right for us: for our heads, our bodies, the ways we sleep and where we go. The coat should be warm and flattering, the pillow just right. I get our pillows at K-Mart and every time I walk through the automatic doors I feel like a squirrel under an oak tree. It’s a hailstorm of nuts. Acorn to acorn, over here, a bigger one! tiny paws, pick one up, nibble, nah, that one  looks better, the one under the trunk, yeah, let’s try that one. Tasty.

I like pillows a lot. They make me happy. K-Mart is well stocked: firm, soft, mushy. I’m a mushy-pillow person, so I grab two. The pillow isle is conveniently next to the kitchen isle, and oh, I forgot, I need another garlic press, all the garlic gets stuck in the one I have. And man, that’s a great price on hand towels . . .

The Bible tells us that in this world Jesus had no place to lay his head. The Bible has a lot to say about shoes, and staffs, belts and bags . . .

“Acquire no gold or silver or copper for your belts, no bag for your journey, or two tunics or sandals or a staff . . .” (Matthew 10:9).

“Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” (Matthew 8:20) That pillow thing.

For me, I’m ok with ditching the tunic and belt, but I’d have a hard time leaving my pillow at home.

Sandals, a staff, no bag for your journey.

Packing light is a gift that few women have. I’ve learned the hard way, dragging my suitcase with the broken wheel through the airport trying to stand it up only to have it slowly tip over. It’s plain embarrassing, all the people around me with spanking new ones that practically whistle down the concourse. I need a spanking new one too, I’ll go to Kmart when I get back.

Shiny new suitcases notwithstanding, I do think our present culture has begun to value simplicity. There’s the tiny house movement, and some of my favorite online ‘lifestyle’ sites are posting more and more about the benefits of having a ‘minimalist’ household, of living a minimalist life. 

I think this is a good thing. Refrigerators that can practically walk and talk and follow you around in case you want a soda maybe aren’t as great as the commercials make them seem. We might finally be starting to get it. Good for you America. High five and I’m in full support.

But Jesus. What is simplicity to him? As I’ve learned to quiet myself before him, I’ve come to realize that the real clutter in my life doesn’t come from my physical environment as much as from the clutter in my head.

There are just as many elongated arms jingling useless refrigerators and pillows and staffs in my head as there are in the room I’m praying in. The clutter in my head tends to come in the form of how am I going to? what if? I still have to, But is it really your will?, and it takes some time before I’m able to slough off that first layer of clutter and listen and be willing to head out into the world without my pillow. Jesus wants my heart straightaway, and if getting rid of physical stuff helps my heart cling to him more completely (and I think this is true for me) then have at it Salvation Army. It’s all yours.

If I don’t have a pillow, his chest is an option, and a far better one at that.

The corrosion of my mind becomes the corrosion of my soul if I don’t become a minimalist in my heart, sweep out that first layer, and allow myself to touch himself. For me, the rust of world-junk, whether it’s pillows, suitcases, or massive refrigerators, is second to the clutter in my head, but more often than not they overlap. The world has an awful lot of tendrils shaking pretties in your face, and unless my simplicity comes by resting my head—pillow-less—on my savior’s chest, chances are I’ll be distracted by something.

So before I feel guilty about having a self-timing coffee maker, I’m going to take Jesus’ words about giving up everything the way I think he meant them. Seek him first; the things that will be added to me will be more valuable than dresses that angle down to the back, so if he asks me to dump them, quit my Magical American Life, and head to the airport with a half-filled suitcase that limps down the concourse, then yeah, absolutely, yeah Lord. You’re the most comfortable thing I have.

Kate James

Katherine James has worked with Cru for 30 years and seen God do some crazy-cool stuff. Presently she’s senior editor for crupress and gets to read and edit and try not to overwhelm her husband who is publisher. She has her MFA from Columbia University and has work published in various journals and anthologies. She loves her job and she loves her boss.

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