I have a friend named Tsh who is helping a lot of people with her new book Notes from a Blue Bike: The Art of Living Intentionally in a Chaotic World.
Most of us need help simplifying our lives—from too much clutter, stuff, entertainment, commitments and a host of other consumeristic desires.
The idea that we could begin intentionally separating ourselves from stuff and obligations that are weighing us down is exciting. But we have to remember that simplifying our lives is a means to an end, the end being that we become more committed to following Christ and the things He is calling us to.
Paul wrote from prison that he was being poured out like a drink offering (2 Timothy 4:6) and urged us to offer ourselves as living sacrifices (Romans 12:1). David’s obedience led him to the life of a fugitive and servant to a foreign king (I Samuel 19 & 27).
Sometimes the simplicity of obedience and the unity of our calling before God produces a rather complex result for our daily lives.
When there is too much trivial stuff that occupies our lives and robs us of peace, joy and contentment we need to simplify. But it’s also true that many of us who are trapped in trivial pursuits haven’t yet found our calling or occupied ourselves with the work God has for us.
We need to read Tsh’s book Notes from a Blue Bike. Tsh’s message of simplification, intentionality and the pursuit of more meaningful engagement with life is prophetic.
We also need to read Brother Andrew’s God Smuggler or Fox’s Book of Martyrs.
Tsh doesn’t talk about simplicity for simplicity’s sake. She is writing to help us find the freedom to pursue God more wholeheartedly.
Brother Andrew and many of the Martyrs in Christian History remind us that the pursuit of God, in the end, might mean more complexity or even greater difficulty and suffering than super simple or peaceful lives.
In fact, maybe the best recipe is to read the two categories of books together—pursuing the art of simplification with an eye to what God could do in our life if we were fully submitted to him. We need to think about how to disengage and then reengage; how to simplify and then obey.
Tsh is a friend, and if you were to ask she would say simple living isn’t an end in itself. She defines simple living as living holistically with your life’s purpose (not a checklist of things to get rid of or say “no” to). It’s something we pursue to create time for more meaningful things in life: family, travel, Christian calling and mission.
The danger with making an idol of simplicity is that we can swing from busyness to solitude without any reference to God or his will for our lives. Simplicity and complexity are adjectives to describe time, space and organization—but they’re not virtues in themselves.
The virtues scripture gives us are faith, hope and love. Sometimes faith, hope and love need the room that simple living brings. Other times, faith, hope and love lead us into a complex web of obedience and trust, not knowing why we experience difficulties, suffering and stress in life but believing they are somehow part of God’s journey for us.
Many of us need to pursue simplicity. Others may need to embrace complexity. In all things, as Christians, we are to live our lives in submission to Christ, the head of the Church, the Lord of our lives and the King of his kingdom—and we find the greatest meaning and blessing in submission to him regardless of whether it leads to simplicity or complexity.
Photo Credit: Peter Zoon, Creative Commons