Cleaning Out the Clutter in My Soul

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I have a secret addiction.

It started out as this little thing. Everyone else swears it is harmless, even helpful. But its influence grew stronger in my life. It became indispensable . It’s my smartphone and I want to throw it out the window!

I was pretty late to the whole world of being connected to the Internet 24 hours a day via an electronic device that makes you prefer chewing off your arm over forgetting it at home. I swore I was sticking to a paper calendar, to checking my email only at my computer.

I only caved two years ago. Now, like everyone else – I am hooked on something I both need and despise. I see a room full of people mindlessly checking social media instead of talking to those next to them and I want to burn every last phone in the room. But then I find myself sneaking my phone into the bathroom so I can just check that one email I need to get to.

Technology is supposed to make our lives simpler, right? A smartphone is a minimalist’s dream. You can have your contacts, books, calendar, directions, work, shows, and even your Bible all in one place. So much in one little device. Right at your fingertips.

It may have everything I think I need in one shiny little computer that tucks neatly into my purse, but I find that it creates more chaos than it eases in my life. My phone may save me space for all the functions it does for me, but it is my mind that has become a tangled mess of more junk than I need. The clutter in my soul has become overwhelming.

The voices I let into my head have been magnified and are just one little swipe away. There are really only a few voices I need to listen to every day.

I have this pretty little print by Lysa TerKeurst on my mirror that reminds me of the voice I need to seek first: “We must exchange whispers with God before shouts with the world.”

I don’t look at those words often. I usually glance past them to the phone sitting on the counter. It’s this little portal to all the to-do lists screaming for my attention, the dings from my calendar telling me I better get moving or I’ll be late, the opinions waiting to shove their way through all the noise to assert themselves as the right ones.

Then there are those little voices that don’t shout above all the noise. They just quietly try to edge their way into all my mental chaos, the million things running through my mind that I have to attend to. They are the voices that ask, “Mommy, look?” or “Honey, how was your day?”

Being connected to the world all the time is easy, but it is anything but simple. It’s complicated and tiring. We are not designed for constant connection. I know this but I am ever so slowly learning to live it.

This summer I took a step back from being as involved on social media, which is hard for a writer who promotes her own work and the work of others there. I started taking longer breaks from the Internet, whole days or weekends. It felt freeing but it also made me realize something — if it’s not one distraction that creates chaos in our minds, there will be another ready to take its place. I found other ways to run away from simple silence.

The technology of our world today makes it so easily to detach from reality, to fill our minds with noise. But so does being overly attached to work, hobbies, our families, even areas of service. It is our nature to want to fill our heads and hands all the time. It alleviates the silence and stillness that makes us intentionally seek God, really inspect our own hearts.

It’s not my smartphone that needs to be thrown out. My real addiction is my craving after distraction. The true enemy — my disdain for the silence that brings to light all the fears and doubts I’d rather ignore than confront head-on.

I complicate the inner space of my soul when I let in every voice that seeks to enter in. It takes real intentionality and discipline to be still, to let in the silence and those few voices that truly matter.

In a culture that feeds on chaos and that praises busyness as a virtue, it’s simplicity that will set us free. Quieting our souls starts with creating space to hear God’s voice.

Yes, that may mean turning off our technology more often. Or it may mean leaving work at the office or saying “no” to commitments that create busyness that doesn’t bring life to us.

I’m not seeking to simply my life these days by having less stuff or streamlining my process. I’m seeking to simplify by clearing out the clutter in my soul and filling my heart with stillness before the Creator of rest itself.

O God of peace, who hast taught us that in returning and rest we shall be saved, in quietness and confidence shall be our strength: By the might of thy Spirit lift us, we pray thee, to thy presence, where we may be still and know that thou art God; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen (Book of Common Prayer)

Nicole T. Walters

Nicole T. Walters

Nicole T. Walters loves to experience and to write about this messy, noisy, beautiful world and cultures not her own. Though her family’s roots run deep in the soil of the Southern United States, Nicole and her husband and two little ones are learning to love hot milk tea instead of sweet iced tea as they make their home in South Asia. She hopes to help others create space to hear God’s voice in all the noise of life as she writes about faith from a global perspective at A Voice in the Noise (Nicoletwalters.com). She has authored essays in several books and her writing has appeared in places live CT Women, Relevant, and Ruminate. She is a regular contributor here at The Mudroom, SheLoves Magazine, and READY Publication and is a member of the Redbud Writers Guild.
Nicole T. Walters

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  • Gina

    I love this so much Nicole! I ended up reading most of it out loud just to let the words sink it. “My real addiction is my craving after distraction.” Amen!

    • Thank you, friend! I am so glad I’m not the only one;) press on!

  • “We are not designed for constant connection.” It’s easy to dismiss this when technology connects us to family and friends dispersed around the globe. But even with that, your words are true. As Gina says, the real truth you’ve presented is that our real addiction is craving distraction. Yes, this is spot on Nicole.

    • Oh, I love my internet and the power it has to connect me to people. I have priceless connections there. But it can really keep me from connecting with God, too, I find. (I think it was probably tv before we got rid of it and before Internet was so prevalent). Yes, stillness is just so contrary to our nature…I think that’s why it matters so much. Thank you!

  • Yes, yes, yes.
    My love/hate relationship with email, my phone, social media are all here in your words, and I remember with so much nostalgia the kind of focus I was able to maintain when all I used the computer for was a glorified typewriter.

    • YES! Love-hate – that is so it. Sometimes I see it as a necessary evil, sometimes I truly love it. I really miss journaling but can’t seem to find time for writing on the computer and by hand.

  • Oh, man. Such a struggle!! I take Social Media off my phone for periods just to rest in the silence. I’ve never been able to take a 100% break – because of promotion. (ugh) But, having to turn on the computer, sit at the table, be more intentional helps me get on and get off quickly. It’s such a double-edged sword, isn’t it?

    • It is! This whole “build a platform” life and “seeking silence” life are at odds with each other. I have taken much more of a break from social media and then there is this overwhelming feeling of Fear of Missing Out. Prayers for us all in this ever changing and fast moving world that is hard on our souls. Thank you for reading, Annie!

  • I’m catching up on blog posts I haven’t read yet (slowly) and of course, how timely I read this one today. I just wrote about this very thing yesterday. I’ve got to find a way to lessen the outside noise to hear GOD. Otherwise, we’re the ones missing out. Well said, Nicole!