Life in my grandparents generation seemed simpler, slower, gentler.
Holidays were spent at the seaside, the nearest one to their home. Food shops and clothing stores offered limited options. People travelled less and families stayed close by. They had the same doctor, the same electrician, the same plumber, the same joiner, for life.
Today we have endless choice in retail. Foods are imported from all over the world. Families travel regularly. Opportunity abounds for our children. And yet, never more are we as people in need of simplicity.
We need to learn to limit our choices, to say ‘no’ to more, to give away the excess, to be satisfied with what we have already.
There is an open door to a simpler life, but for all sorts of reasons we don’t want to walk through it. Once inside the four walls of ‘the simple life’ we are sure things will feel a little claustrophobic, restrictive, repetitive and perhaps even a little boring?
A ‘simple Christian life’ can feel even more terrifying. We think of John the Baptist with his rustic attire and alternative diet; we imagine monasteries, deserts, silence, solitude. We fear a leap outside of all of life as we currently know it, and we quickly resort to the comforting mess of our over-complicated lives.
As many of you will know, I’ve been reading the Old Testament book of 2 Kings. I listened to an audio recording of several chapters of this book recently as I wanted to try to catch the story of these people as they and their kings lived out their calling as ‘people of God’ in this ancient civilisation. The recording was repetitive and a little monotonous. The names of the respective Kings of Judah and Israel are blended and inseparable in my memory. The phrase ‘he did evil in the sight of the Lord’ occurs with depressing frequency. Tantalisingly hopeful are the brief interjections about the Kings who ‘ did what was right in the eyes of the Lord’ followed by the disappointing addition ‘but they didn’t remove the altars to other gods’.
God was not enough for these people, His covenant brushed aside. It is true, they had not turned their backs on God completely but there were too many other important, new and interesting things in life. Theirs was a burgeoning cosmopolitan world, new ideas and philosophies were there to be explored. Accommodations surely needed to be made so as to live in harmony with their fellow human beings. The days of wandering in the desert were now historical, far too simplistic.
I don’t really think I am too different to these ancient people.
Jesus calls me to him with an undivided heart
To let go
To leave behind
To practice a simpler life
To prioritise prayer
To use all my intellect, all my creative abilities, all my time, all my energy. all my loyalty
For Him alone.
Teach me your way, O Lord, that I may walk in your truth; unite my heart to fear your name.
Psalm 86, 11. (ESV)
I like the smell of coffee more than it’s taste and I think I like the idea of simplicity more than the reality.
Simplicity is the envy of those with complicated lives, an elusive dream.
Choice is both a privilege and a burden. If we want simplicity in our lives, if we really want to ‘unite our hearts to fear God’s name’ then we need to lay some things down, purposefully, and determinedly.
In my next few blog posts I will be sharing about ‘Simplicity’ and my attempts to work this out in the life of an ordinary woman. I hope you will join me….watch this space!