Saturday, August 09, 2014

When True Simplicity Is Gained, final: Humble Stumble

A Concluding Word … or Few Hundred

Another form of simplicity is less about possession than it is about scheduling. Sometimes we get so busy, even doing God’s work, that the center of our lives are cluttered. What difference does it make if we live in plain house with few possessions and drive plain black Priuses if we do not have simplicity in our soul? The possessions there, more and more committee chairmanships, community activities and so on, that appear altruistic to others, but which in fact we wear as sort of a badge of pride. We must be important – look how busy we are.

So, if we are to begin to live the testimony of simplicity, we must first simplify our own inner and outer lives. We must take time to live in that holy center. We must calm our lives and learn to breathe.

I am not saying it is easy. It is not. I have a terribly difficult time doing it. It is much easier to run, run, run than it is to sit. But when I run, run, run I find my whole life coming unbalanced – family time, work productivity, emotions, physical health. It is when I take time to pray and wait that I find my rhythms, inner and outer, begin to slow and becoming more soothing than rock and roll ragged.

So that’s where we must begin – inside. Take time to be holy – and a holy simplicity will follow. And with that simplicity will come a joy that is most remarkable. We know, in our innermost lives, that things do not bring happiness. But we are a bit slower to learn the lesson that activity, even religious activity, does not bring happiness either. What brings joy into our life is when we give up, abandon ourselves to God and allow the Spirit to simplify our lives and direct our actions.

That means we must surrender self. That’s not easy. I would much rather be in control, or fool myself into thinking that I am, of my life than to turn it over to anyone else – even God. That’s one reason I hate flying. I have to sit there and let someone else control my destiny. I don’t trust the pilot. The larger question is do I trust God? Do I trust enough to let go – even when I feel that if I do then life will go careening out of control and I may crash upon its rocks? If I am honest, often times the question is no. And that there is fulfillment, however spiritually unhealthy, in all the activity I work so hard to keep up. The question Van Morrison asks “when will I ever learn to live in God” remains mine and is at the heart of living the testimony of simplicity.

Jesus tells us in that we are not to worry – about what we drink, eat, look like or wear. In listing those things he cuts directly to the chase and points out the things that consume us. We worry to much about the inconsequential. He’s not talking here to the starving children or displaced homeless ones. He’s talking to us good religious people. Jesus says if we seek first his kingdom, that is, surrender our ideas of what we are to be about to the larger ideas that God has in store for us, then all the important things will be ours as a matter of course. When we learn to simplify our lives by surrendering to God, then we find we have all we need even when it is not all we want. Simplicity of direction, that of following as closely as possible, to our savior and leader, brings with it a beauty to life we will find hard to imagine.

“It is easy to let ourselves slip into action for action’s sake,” says Henry van Etten. “Without noticing it, we unconsciously seek to enlarge our sphere of activity ... unconsciously neglecting day after day to restore our spiritual strength, we find ourselves eventually at the bottom of a dry well, with nothing but our wretched little human powers. Yet we had begun our work ... with the highest motives, we even had the intimate sense of response to the divine call; yes, it was with a following wind that we launched out, God filling the sails, and Christ at the helm.”

“Even so, bit by bit, we have transformed what was a divinely appointed task into work on a merely human level, with all its shortcomings. And why did things end up like that? Because we neglected our inner life, because we were taken up with action, because we were too tired to pray, too tired to take part in meetings for worship, too tired to refresh our spiritual strength by reading ... We must be able to stop in the midst of our urgent task for something even more urgent; prayer, self-composure, meditation in silence, worship.”

The practice of simplicity must begin with an ordered inner life. Live is not to be poor and bare, destitute of joy and beauty. There is much to celebrate and welcome into our lives. But when we learn to live ordered lives from the Divine Center, the superfluous details vanish and we will experience a simplicity that makes for beauty.

The Shakers sang “Tis a gift to be simple, Tis a gift to be free.” May we ask God today for the gift of inner simplicity that makes for freedom and beauty.

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