Tis the Gift to Be Simple
‘Tis the gift to be simple,
’tis the gift to be free,
’tis the gift to come downwhere we ought to be,
and when we find ourselves in the place just right,
’twill be in the valley of love and delight.
When true simplicity is gained
to bow and to bend we shan’t be ashamed,
to turn, turn, will be our delight
till by turning, turning we come round right.
Shaker song, eighteenth century
Perhaps it’s just a byproduct of getting older, but from time to time I think about simplifying my life. Fewer things, fewer responsibilites, a lighter schedule, all very appealing at times, particularly in the aftermath of such tremendous disaster as we’ve witnessed with Hurricane Katrina. As I packed a big duffel bag of clothes and toiletries for my Labor Day weekend trip to Destin, it occurred to me that I had more in that weekend bag than many evacuees escaped with during the hurricane. It humbled me and at the same time made me very appreciative of what I have.
Simplicity is appealing. But is it really feasible? And is it even necessary? The old Shaker song above calls simplicity a “gift”, implying that it’s not something that comes naturally to us. Life is complicated. Sure, I can make decisions that further complicate my life. But not having a job in order to “simplify” my life, for instance, does not lighten my load per se–rather, it can burden me even more as I struggle to pay the bills. Eliminating activities in order to have more “free time” does not benefit me if I don’t use that free time wisely. Ridding myself of friendships because they’re “complicated” reduces my relationships to shallow, unfulfilling experiences.
I know that we blame our culture for our go-go lifestyle, cramming more activity, more entertainment, more responsibilities into our lives. But what about the church’s role in all this? When you belong to a church that is very activity-driven, very ministry-oriented, sometimes it’s difficult to say no to activities that are not bad or sinful, but that still add to your list of things to do. Having gone through extreme church ministry burn-out before, I’ve found that I’ve had to limit the amount of “church stuff” I do in order to make more time and room in my life for my personal relationship with God, with my family, and with my friends. At the same time, if, in my effort to “simplify” my life, I eliminate all church activity and responsibility, I become guilty of neglecting my responsibilities as a Christian.
So what are your thoughts on simplifying your life? How do you do it? To what extent?