This week I was sitting and listening to a man who has lived over three times as long as me (he is 96-years-old). It was a joy to hear him describe times that I have only heard about in documentaries and books. I was especially fascinated when he recalled what it was like during World War II. But, there was one thing that he said that really stuck with me. He was reflecting on the difficulties we face today and he said, “Times were just so much more simple when I was young”, as if simplicity was the answer to our problems. I reflected on that thought while I was driving home.
I think we have to admit that our world has grown more complex. Even my Dad can recall the time when people used to do one thing at a time, like sitting around the radio to listen to a song! Now, we play music while we do multiple other things (study, drive, work). Timesaving devices were supposed to give us time back but we seem to be busier than ever! Facebook and Instagram were supposed to help our relationships but instead we find ourselves ignoring the friend next to us while we check our phone! Often, we are overrun by the detail and the busyness, with the result being that we feel fragmented and directionless.
This is why, in one sense, I agree with my older friend. We need simplicity. Not simplicity in and of itself… but simplicity that arises from a single-minded pursuit of Jesus. Richard Foster says, “Seeking first God’s kingdom and the righteousness, both personal and social, of that kingdom is the only thing that can be central in the Spiritual Discipline of simplicity.” The spiritual discipline of simplicity is all about keeping our focus and desires singular. Jesus is our one focus. His kingdom is all that matters. His glory is our goal. When we orient our life and our days in this way, we begin to discover the discipline of simplicity. No longer is life about satisfying the next hunger pain or carving out that little bit of free time for ourselves. Instead, every moment becomes and opportunity for us to ‘seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness’ (Matthew 6:33).
So, how do we do this? There are some practical ways we can pursue the discipline of simplicity in our lives. We can begin by establishing healthy spiritual rhythms that reorient us again and again in what is important. Here are some ideas:
- Seek God before leaving for the day. Read your Bible while you eat breakfast.
- Establish a rhythm where you spend the last 10 minutes of your lunchbreak silently handing over your anxieties and to-do lists to Jesus.
- Make ‘Sabbath’ a part of your life. Whether you choose a day like Sunday or a couple of hours each night… take the time to unplug, stop, rest, and seek God in the ways that you connect with him (reading, worship, prayer, nature).
- Fast something. Whether it be food or social media… and every time you feel a craving, use it as a reminder to pray.
May God be our highest treasure and our deepest pleasure.