The Quest for Simplicity
A woman's work is never done. Judging from the list I have for my husband, a man's isn't either. Obligations, competing interests, and good things to do can wear away at us. Life begins to feel like it's lived in fast forward.
Often I reflect on how quickly the years are passing (especially as I watch the growth of my children!), and wish I could slow them down. My focus on Christ, close relationships, and the condition of my own soul is repeatedly left wanting, due in part to a busy, cluttered life.
Recently, while sitting in a doctor's waiting room, I picked up a popular ladies' magazine. The headlines read, "52 Time-Saving Shortcuts," "Fresh Dinners Done in Minutes," and "The No-Gym, Sneak-It-In Workout Plan." Did you catch that pattern? Busyness. Our world promotes a never-ending challenge to cram everything we can into the twenty-four hours allotted to us.
Busyness makes us feel useful. It makes us feel indispensable, as if the people with the overloaded schedules are accomplishing the most. We mistakenly equate busyness with importance. We may even feel that if we are well rested, there is something wrong with us.
Perhaps we need to be reminded that no one can do it all. If we say "yes" to one thing, we are saying "no" to something else. It is possible that we need to accomplish less but with clearer focus on more worthy things.
Not that serving Christ doesn't require a degree of busyness. Jesus was busy at times to the point of exhaustion and once was even too busy to eat. Kingdom work requires great effort of mind and body, it's true. Yet even Jesus didn't heal all the sick or go to every place He was asked to go.
The reaction from many to the fast-paced lives we've created is a call for simplicity, or "minimalism." These new buzz words conjure up images of time spent lying in a hammock, gazing at clouds while children run through water sprinklers in the background. But what is the reality of a simple life? Can it be biblically defined?
Is it giving away half our stuff, paring down the wardrobe, and moving to the countryside so we can grow vegetables and raise chickens?
Is it better organizational habits?
Is it taking back control of the calendar and eliminating anything that causes us hassle or stress?
It could be. But I think true simplicity runs deeper than that. Because God often sovereignly places us in circumstances that are beyond our control. And those circumstances may be anything but simple. In fact, they can be quite complicated.
Again, we find the solution in the example Jesus set before us.
Purposeful Though Sometimes Complicated
Jesus had a decisive focus as He walked on the earth: to do His Father's will. He never wavered or strayed from what God had sent Him to do.
He began His earthly ministry by stating at His baptism, "Thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness" (Matt. 3:15). Scripture tells us that He had many interruptions but His face was set "like a flint" (Isa. 50:7). And then finally, on the cross He declared, "It is finished" (John 19:30). Jesus accomplished His one purpose, which was to do the will of God. The tight schedule of diverse events, healings, conversations, and relationships that transpired during His earthly ministry were for one purpose—to do the Father's will.
Thoughtful and Careful Lives
Psalm 119:59 says, "When I think on my ways, I turn my feet to your testimonies."
Charles Spurgeon comments on this verse:
Action without thought is folly, and thought without action is sloth: to think carefully and then to act promptly is a happy combination.
Ephesians 5:15-17 says, "Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is."
"Being careful" takes time and thought. When my teens leave the house with car keys in hand, I say, "Be careful!" I am reminding them to be thoughtful, deliberate, and focused on the drive ahead. If we are going to "be careful" how we live, we, too, must be thoughtful, deliberate, and focused on how we spend the time we've been given.
Not as Unwise, But Wise
James 1:5 tells us to ask for wisdom and it will be given to us. How many times have I used this as a hip pocket verse, pulling it out and asking God to rescue me with some wisdom when I get in over my head? Praise be to God, He has at times rescued me in this way, but this is not the pattern God has set before us. Proverbs teaches us it is the ongoing pursuit of wisdom that teaches us how to live.
He Shall Be Like a Tree
Calendars are always getting filled and new commitments are always being made. But may we resolve that our lives will not be defined by aimless busyness that feels like we're running on a treadmill going fast to no place. May we instead be like trees planted by rivers of water.
At times it is necessary to prune away worthwhile and good branches of life. May God give us discernment, as we lay our obligations and opportunities before Him, asking Him where our moments should be focused. May our goal be that our relationship with Him remain solid and vital like the strong roots of a tree. Only then can the branches, limbs, and leaves of the tree follow that same single-minded motivation: God's will and His glory.
A simple life is a life liberated for God's purposes. May our eyes be focused and our hearts set to do His will.
By Bambi Moore
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