simplicity – lost then found.
in my shame of non-follow through i picked up the book about simplicity again (Freedom of Simplicity by Richard Foster). I vaguely remembered where I left off, reversed a couple pages to be safe, and started again:
the attractive ability to surrender our rights for the good of others is central to everything about simplicity.
there once was a time when i urged simplicity of life upon people indiscriminately. i would cajole, shove, and push, and often they would indeed change their lifestyle…i discovered that simplicity is just another anxiety-laden burden until people have experienced God’s gracious power to provide them with daily bread.
by now you maybe be wondering, ‘why all this talk about miracles, divine power, and spiritual preparation? can’t we just get on with the business of simplifying our lifestyles without all the God talk?’ i answer you are welcome to try.
perhaps out of concern for the terrible iniquities in the world, you have sought to open your heart and your pocketbook to needy brothers and sisters….you may even have attempted a common purse. but somehow, deep down inside, it all seem so dry and articifical. there was no oil of the Spirit to heal wounded relationships.
could it be that we need to follow the lead of the disciples, who through bitter experience were taught that their first priority was to seek hard after the kingdom of God, and who found that once baptized into its life and power they were liberated to care for one another in unprecedented ways.
Now that you have read through the NT witness to simplicity, the answer to that question (why tithing is not mandated in NT) is probably obvious to you. the tithe is simply not a sufficiently radical concept to embody the carefree unconcern for possessions that marks life in the kingdom of God. Jesus Christ is the Lord of all our goods, not just 10 percent. we can feel that our monthly check to our church meets the new law of Jesus, and never once root out reigning mammon lust.
these thoughts connected with some intangible, non-verbal part of my spirit. “gut” truth is my favorite kind – it’s where true change lives. it is, however, quite messy down here. nothing is categorized, defined, or bullet pointed, which is why i often avoid spending time in these places. but this one is demanding that i listen to it, nurture it, honor it, express it. to hold onto some kind of compass and to not drown you in the soup, i have reserved the right to at least number my reactions :).
1. repulsion. i am aware of the call to be radically non-possessive of this physical world and all that i call “mine”. i am aware that joy in giving is a sign of true simplicity. i am aware that “no” was my knee-jerk response to being a safe family (a program where we would take one child in our home to give his/her mother time to become “well” and able to care again) because we cannot possibly afford to feed another child as well as we feed our own. and then, before i could stop it, the thought crossed my mind to shop at trader joe’s for one and wal-mart for the other. oh, my ugly heart.
2. fear. i fear the land of “should”. i lived in “should”-ville the first two years in college (i should go to all night prayer meeting. i should raise my hands in worship. i should feel something when i read my Bible). Jesus was not there and once i got out, i vowed never to return. i know i should live simply but i abhor (and suck at) that which is not real.
i fear losing the common (and i dare to say beautiful) parts of me that are not specifically “about Him”. i have found life in my interests, passions, quirks. if i become about just Jesus, will I lose the vibrancy and “me” found in these earthly places?
3. attraction. i have been about many things these days. it’s been awhile since i have been about only Christ. there is something deeply appealing and truly simple about pursuing ONE thing. and there is a fullness in Him that i find in no other…
4. relief and desire. something i see in both of the authors i have read lately (foster and nouwen) is that while their pursuit is narrow (only Christ), their journey is broad. nouwen’s experience of community is profoundly intimate and intense – way more than we would dare. his lack of “blocking” emotions lead him to freakishly accurate insight and hard impact into mere strangers (me being one). foster’s Christ leads to radical social justice. for both of these men, Christ did not isolate but rather opened their eyes to a world that was bigger – more lively- than their human minds could fathom.
5. dreaming. i think about what life would look like with Christ as my only earthly possession. i see atticus playing with a little boy his age while i make dinner for the four of us – the same dinner i would have made for the three of us. i see me setting aside my internal “to do” list that controls and professional veneer that protects, actually sitting with my clients in the pain where they live, letting them impact my heart. i see me talking about Christ as wildly, as fondly, as often, and with as many strangers as i talk about food. i see ben and i getting on our knees asking Him if we are still on track and then for the money, time, energy, wisdom and faith to change or stay the same.
6. i want to be more about Jesus and less about simplicity.