When someone says the word Simplicity, what comes to your mind? Simplicity sounds scary to a lot of Americans. It also sounds like dream-stuff in our hectic, cluttered culture. Anyone who knows me knows that I have longed for it, yet it seemed to elude me. Two people in our household had ADD, there were 3 children and ministry was added to the mix. Nothing in all of that was simple! Sometimes it seemed like shoveling snow in a blizzard as I would try to pare down schedules, sort stuff to send to Goodwill, sort through mail to pitch what needed pitched, picking up trails left behind, and unpack from moving which happened quite often. My husband said that we should throw away any box we hadn't opened in 2 moves, until we found something important in the top of one of those boxes! Downscaling has felt good. Very good. I like organization and low maintenance stuff!
As a pastor's family we were pulled to be at every church function to spend "face-time". We looked at each other and decided to set limits on what we said yes and what we said no to. Everyone seems to want the pastor's approval and presence at every church function. They wanted me to be in every women's and children's ministry area even though my gifts and talents didn't fit their expectations. What they didn't realize is that most of those demands can tear pastors' families apart. Some of the "powers that be" in the churches were unhappy with the choices we made. However, we knew that if our marriage fell apart, we would have failed to obey God, that a pastor should be faithful to his wife and able to manage his household well( 1 Timothy 3). When he passed away, it was amazing the great number of people who shared howmuch he and I had ministered to them. Believe me, "face-time" wasn't it!!! It was quietly following the leadership of the Holy Spirit in what God had gifted and called us to do, hearing His promptings and obeying. Saying no was unpopular to a lot of people; however, it glorified God more importantly.
Why does simplicity seem so difficult? It's probably different for everyone, but some things seem to continually show up: kids' activities and homework, work schedules, church calendars, late Uncle Ed's estate papers, important & not-so-important paper piles, overflowing laundry & an overstuffed closet, storage units, so the list goes on and on. Scads of magazine articles are dedicated to de-cluttering. They sell tons of those magazines. I wonder how many of them end up in stacks of old magazines in the corner of people's living rooms.
The spiritual discipline of simplicity is about letting go of stuff and busy-ness that gets in the way of spending time in prayer, Bible study, and service. It is about being freed from a crowded schedule to help a neighbor or serve with the church at the local food bank. One thing we set in place in our home was the 1 major, 2 minors rule. It meant that serving in a leadership position at church such as Sunday School teacher only allowed that person to help with 2 other things, not lead them. Sometimes we rob other Christians the opportunity to serve because we take up too many positions in the church. If we feel that no one else could do it the way we want it, it is a rather selfish notion. The ability to say, "No." is difficult to do yet empowering. Becoming less so someone else can become more is humbling.
Simplicity is freedom. Freedom to pursue a call from God to serve Him. Freedom to spend time with our families building a solid foundation full of fantastic memories with children. Freedom to build a long-lasting, strong marriage that emulates what Christian marriage is about. Freedom to share what we have with someone in need. Freedom to spend as long as necessary praying over the things that break God's heart and our own. Freedom to pour over the Scriptures to glean the gems God has placed for us to find should we care to find them. Simplicity is from God; cluttered lives is not. Author C.S. Lewis in his book, The Screwtape Letters, shows how Satan loves pulling Christians off-track with seemingly harmless distractions and busy schedules. Are you being pulled off track?
Simplicity begins with heart-felt prayer asking God to show us anything that is getting in the way of time with Him, serving Him, glorifying Him. What has God gifted, talented and called you to do? Those things need to stay. As the Holy Spirit begins showing those areas of clutter, write them down. One place to begin praying over is our schedules. How much junk could be cleared out? Make an action plan detailing the ones that can disappear this week and then those that will take 1-3 months. Begin clearing. Don't think for once that you won't have a battle to protect your family and prayer time. It will happen, so develop a plan to tactfully, lovingly, yet firmly deal with this.
The next area is the stuff. Set up boxes: Trash, Donate, Keep. Take 15 minutes a day to tackle the stuff. What do you need? What is truly important to you? Do you have duplicates of things when only 1 will do? Bless someone else by donating things that are in good condition to a thrift store. If it is worn or outdated, throw it away! Give things to people through your church's benevolent ministry. Remember, when you die, you can't take it with you!
This discipline can be found in Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster. You can go to the Simplicity pdf file below to read that chapter.
Scripture passages dealing with simplicity:
I Corinthians 5:11
1 Timothy 6:17-19
Sites to visit:
May God richly bless you!