I tend to over-complicate my life, never really sorting through the tasks I give myself. My mind clumsily clutches too many purposes and projects at once, like a postal worker juggling a dozen packages and envelopes. (We’re all postal workers, after a fashion, delivering myriads of messages in the course of a week.) There are family tensions and goals to tend to, exercise routines to maintain, dietary habits to uphold, book projects to churn out, blog posts to write, a reading agenda to strive after. And—oh yea—that embarrassingly nebulous notion of “spiritual life.” How’s that fitting into all this? Is it everything? Or have I merely made it one item on the list, another package to juggle?
Everything hangs in balance for a while, giving me the illusion of control. But deep down, I feel off center, stretched, and tired. I think to myself, “I don’t want all of this postal responsibility. Give me one letter a day, one thing to carry. That’s all. I want a simple life.” But what is a simple life?
Yesterday afternoon I saw a crow flapping upwards into the gray, cloudy sky. I almost didn’t notice him, but his blackness caught my eye. And he seemed to hover for just a moment, riding a wind current. I thought, “Now there’s a creature with a simple life: a temporary home, no baggage, and no agenda but finding food and flying. So. Very. Simple.”
Of course, the crow’s life is also not as rich. Crows don’t enjoy any of the intricacies of human language and culture. They carry little with them because they’ve been given little by God to carry. We, on the other hand, have been given much: a calling to communion with the Trinity and a life of sacrificial, Christ-honoring service, quickened by the very Spirit of God himself. How do creatures with such weight live a simple life?
A simple life, it turns out, is a God-centered life. And a God-centered life is a life about which you can ask and answer one question every single day: What are you doing here? And the answer must be equally terse: I am here to love God and enjoy him forever. A God-centered life is a love-centered life, and it’s also a simple life.
Remember Jesus’s words in Matthew’s Gospel? “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matt. 11:28-30).
Perhaps we could paraphrase verse 30 this way: “I carry one thing, and it makes my life simple.” What is that one thing? To do the will of his heavenly Father (John 4:34), out of great love for him (Matt. 22:37-38), and out of the abundant life he had in the Holy Spirit (John 4:24; 14:15-24; Rom. 8:2).
A simple life, my friends, is a God-centered life, a life in which, at any moment, you can say, “I am doing this out of love for God,” whatever your this may be.
And if there’s anything in your life that you are not doing out of love for God, get rid of it or change the way you approach it. With time and consistent practice, God will lead you towards a simple life.
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