The Lenten Season gives us opportunity to reflect on who Christ is and examine our hearts as we prepare for Easter. During Lent, many practice fasting, self-denial, or increased acts of service. It is a time to repent of our sin and receive forgiveness. The ultimate goal is heart transformation – as we enter into Christ’s suffering, we become more like him. This year, we offer this Lenten blog series as a way to help you become closer to Jesus. Each post will reflect on a different spiritual discipline – some inward, others outward; some individual, others corporate. May these spiritual practices facilitate God’s formation of your soul. Today’s post was written by Steve Waldron, one of our church members and co-cordinators of our adult Christian Formation Classes.
Simplicity might be not part of our idea of Christianity or spiritual disciplines. If we think of it at all, we are likely to think of the quaint plain dress worn by some Quakers or Mennonites, black and white and homemade. Or we might recall the old Shaker hymn “Tis a gift to be simple…” Or maybe we know of Christians who give away a large part of their income.
As Richard Foster points out in his books Celebration of Discipline and Freedom of Simplicity, these outward actions are not at the heart of Christian simplicity. Simplicity is not primarily about following a set of rules about how to dress or what to do with our money. Simplicity is not only a feeling we have inside ourselves either. If our lives aren’t visibly changed, we probably aren’t practicing simplicity.
At its core, simplicity is a lifestyle of obedience and conformity to the life, teachings, and death of Jesus. It is a single-minded response to the call to be a disciple, one who learns from the teacher and follows his way of doing things. And the way Jesus tells us to live is a simple one.
Instead of worrying what tomorrow or the next year might bring, we live simply if we focus on the needs of people around us. Rather than sugarcoating the truth or using bitter sarcasm, we speak simply if we let our yes and no mean something real. In the face of temptations to pursue either frantic activity or lazy self-indulgence, simplicity means a life that is focused and yet restful and joyful.
Jesus’s call to a life of simple obedience meets our deepest longings for a life that is meaningful, balanced, and enjoyable. The invitation to simplicity is an invitation to make sense of our lives by letting go of our ambitions for more, faster, and better. Instead of boundless ambition for ourselves, Jesus offers us rest for our souls and relationships with other people. That is difficult for all of us. Here are some simple steps (adapted from Foster’s Freedom of Simplicity) you might take to start practicing this discipline:
- For one day, think about and list every lie you see or hear in advertisements that promise that buying something will make you happy.
- Reflect on your three most important long-term goals and whether Christ and his teachings about how to live are at the center of those ambitions.
- Spend half a day (either a morning or all the time after noon) without checking messages such as email, text messages, Facebook, etc.
- Count how many times during an hour you are conscious of God’s presence.