The Not So Simple Life
The blogosphere is littered with topics on living simply and simplifying life. Actually, it’s kinda everywhere. I even have a sign hanging in my living room that says, “Live Simply, Love Deeply” in pretty swirling letters. I liked it when I bought it, but this morning in the midst of a happy crafting mess (paper, markers, crayons, tape, coloring books, glue, and scissors strewn about the room), in the little corner spot of the couch I had to clear of debris, I sit. I sip my coffee. I stare, eyes squinty and head cocked to the side, at the sign hanging on the adjacent wall (children snipping bits of paper and singing in the background.) I read it and I think, What does that even mean?
What does it mean to live simply? That’s a good place to start. Does it mean doing less? Does it mean being home more and out of the house less? Does it mean owning less stuff? Spending less money? In that moment on the couch it meant, for me, less art supplies! Does it mean less organized sports? Less technology? I’m sure I’m ruffling some feathers at this point, but I’m thinking in general it means less. However, we are busy humans. We don’t just sit and stare. We get bored. We are always thinking, always doing, and, frankly, we like it that way.
Many books, Christian and non-Christian, have been written on this topic. One writer has gone as far as to encourage her readers to gut their closets and get rid of all but seven outfits– after all, you really only need one for each day of the week, right? Other people have written on the value of rejecting modernity in favor of a pioneering/farming lifestyle. In my summation, this is really just trading out one type of busy for another, but I don’t doubt this is favorable to those who choose it. These books seem to have all the answers, don’t they? Just do this and this, and then you will be able to breathe again, then you will be… simplified?
But my question is, Are we, just maybe, seeking after something that can never really be obtained this side of Paradise?
Maybe seeking simple is really just another way we are all chasing after the wind.
You see, it’s hard for us women, isn’t it? I mean, it’s crazy really! We want to simplify. We think we see the value, but then we begin to spend an awful lot of time and energy on the actual endeavor. It’s like we quite literally can’t get out of our own way! And I feel like this all the time. We make plans to simplify. We set aside special time, and we write it in our planners. We print out those pretty little printables we find on Pinterest, “Simplify in 30 Days” or “The Minimization Checklist.” It all looks good on paper. But then, two months later we still have only one box checked, and we berate ourselves for missing that appointment, for failing at that. It’s kinda’ nutty. Is my life really so busy that I can’t even set aside the time to clean out my closet– if that really is the key to simplicity anyway.
I’ve been reflective over the past few months. I haven’t been writing much. But I’ve been thinking. As I’ve been carting my children all around God’s creation for this and that activity that will magically transform these crazy days into special memories, I’ve had a lot of time to ponder on these car rides, to think hard on this topic.
To my peers, our generation, we have been indoctrinated into this ideal of simple living, where less is more and more is… gross. We are the generation of minimalism, tiny houses, green living, sustainability, and nomadic dreams. We’ve been convinced that this is not only attainable, but that, for the good of the earth and all who inhabit it, simplicity must be sought after.
However, for the Christian millennial (the one on the older side, like me) who is trying to obey the cultural mandate handed to us in God’s Word, all of these ideals come crashing down (Genesis 1:28). When you add kids, jobs, bills, cats and dogs, and a host of other responsibilities to this elusive simple life, what seemed like the smartest, most practical, and noblest thing in our twenties now seems almost ridiculous in our thirties. In fact, for some of us, I would venture to guess, the pendulum has swung the other way entirely. And now here we are. We’ve traded in the compact hybrids for the gas-guzzling minivans with the soccer practices and the playdates. We have in-ground pools that need cleaning, chickens that that need feeding– life fills up fast. We started with these grandiose or shall I say “minimalistic” ideals, and now we feel as though we are slowly and systematically betraying all that we once valued. We are discontent.
So it can only be concluded that, no matter where you land on this simplicity spectrum, all of these endeavors don’t satisfy the peace we hope to gain from the “simple life.” I hate to be so on the nose about it, but can I cry with Solomon, “Vanity vanity! It’s all just vanity!” Even simplification is a vain pursuit when it takes up so much room in our minds and our hearts.
Even simplification is a vain pursuit when it takes up so much room in our minds and our hearts.
Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not wailing with the Gnostics that all matter is evil. I see how simplifying is beneficial. Reevaluating life periodically and all that you and your family are involved in is a good thing! It’s always good to self-reflect and change course when necessary. It’s good to clean out the closets. It’s good to dial-in to home life and shut out the world every now and then, to focus on family and togetherness. These are all very good things. And if you want to have that hobby farm – to live the simple life, that is good too. If a minimalist condo is what defines simplicity for you then so be it. If you want to trail that “glamporous” Airstream behind your SUV, all the way up to the mountains, be my guest– I’m right there with ya’ on that one!
But we must reflect on where our hearts are, because where our hearts are, our treasures are also (Matthew 6:21). Is our time and energy so focused on the temporal “simple life” that we are setting simplicity up as an idol of the heart? Are we strong-arming God ‘s will for our life, trying to fit his will into our ideals? Are we avoiding obedience to him because what he is calling us to looks too complicated, too challenging, or just doesn’t fit into the “necessary” simple life, for which (by the way) we are breaking our backs to achieve?
You see, ladies, frankly I think we’ve been duped. We’ve been hoodwinked! Had! Tricked and deceived! While every voice around us is snapping a snarky “simplify,” God himself is crying, “Glorify!” We have been suckered into striving after the simple life because it is deemed to be the happy life. Once you simplify, things will be better.
Sisters, flesh feeding happiness found through the simplification of life is not the end-game for the Christian. If it were, then we would neglect the friend in need because we wouldn’t want complicate our simplified schedules. We would opt out of that art project with the kids because we wouldn’t want to mess up our simplified spaces. And we wouldn’t involve ourselves in the complicated lives of those around us because then our lives too would become complicated. We would sit, all alone in our tiny clutter-free and “feng shui” houses, shut out from the messy unsimple world. And ya’ know what? We still wouldn’t be “happy.”
The truth is God doesn’t call us to simplification. He calls us to sanctification.
The truth is God doesn’t call us to simplification. He calls us to sanctification. He calls us to obedience. He calls us to love. “Then Jesus told his disciples, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it'” (Matthew 6:24-25).
But my question is, Are we, just maybe, seeking after something that can never really be obtained this side of Paradise? Maybe seeking simple is really just another way we are all chasing after the wind. Is simple living just a vapor that cannot be grasped or is it a valuable state of being that should be sought after, striven for, and attained?