As I watched the one station that comes in over my antenna the other night I was baffled by the ads dancing across the screen almost slapping viewers in the face with the idea that the high end, latest and greatest, technology gifts were the only gifts acceptable to be given this season. Now, please don’t stop reading now because this is not another blog complaining about our turning Christmas into another consumer based holiday, that is another discussion for another day. This is actually about living a simple life as a whole. This idea has been very stuck in my mind since our YAMS training over a year ago, but it has been very prevalent in my mind recently in the last month or so. I want to make a confession to you all to put some of this in context.
As I stared into my closet and slammed drawer after drawer one morning I was entirely convinced that I had NOTHING to wear and I was going to be late for work and it was not my fault because pickings in my closet were so slim. First world problem, right? I still looked down at my puppy, who wondered what I was doing, and envied her furry coat which looks adorable everyday, even when her mommy messes up when giving her a home haircut. Anyway, this isn’t a new occurrence in my morning routine. I tend to take what I will cloth myself with each day way too seriously. For example, if I find a shirt I like a lot, odds are I have it in more than one color, and on and on, you all don’t need to know the gory details. Now, not long after this one day, however, I stumbled across my training notebook. And when I say stumbled I mean it was only what I can imagine was God giving me a pat on the head and a shove in the right direction. This notebook has all the notes from all of our training sessions and quotes that were particularly meaningful to me personally. I happened to turn to a page titled: Spiritual Practices. And guess what was on this page? That’s right, Simplicity was neatly printed about halfway down the page. The bullets to follow read like this:
- buy things for usefulness, not status
- eliminate addictive substances
- develop a habit of giving things away
- develop an appreciation for creation
- reject things that continue the oppression of others
As I sighed to myself and shook my head, I knew that this was a battle within myself that I was finally ready to tackle. This will continue to be an ongoing battle, mind you, but this is where I started. I began to think, not only do I have enough clothes to wear to work every week, but I have enough come home and change into to go for a run and then I have clothes to put on to go to church, to see friends, and still enough left over for pajamas. And after all that I still have enough to sit in my drawers and hang unused in my closet. So, that night, my puppy and I spent that night cleaning out my drawers and closet and digging way back into the storage areas of my closet. I easily cut my selection in half and have done two more clean outs since this night two months ago. And guess what, I don’t miss a single piece of clothing that I have given away.
Examining this issue gave me the guts to reevaluate how I buy and consume food as well as the multiple other areas my stipend is spread out across. The other thing I examined wasn’t money related, but how I was spending my free time, who and what I was investing it in. There are a lot of areas of my life that can use improvement. The saying, “there’s starving kids somewhere” came to my mind. Isn’t it sad that we have to compare our mistakes to others needs in order to put our life in perspective?
OK, so now that I’ve told you all this we can move on to, “so, what’s your point?”. Well, while I was doing some mindless internet cruising the other night I saw a quote that I loved. It was, “Jesus came here to serve and not to be served.” This is a beautiful concept to me. As Christians it should be our goal to be like Christ, and He came here to serve. So, what is it that we can eliminate in our lives to create simplicity and to create less of a gap between what we want and what we are called to do. It’s funny that I don’t hear as much discussion about the difference between want and need anymore, because it seems like now wanting something is enough validation for getting or doing something. I have a good friend who will call me out when were shopping, “do you need that?” You know only good friends can say that without feeling like they have to get out of swinging range. We need to be accountable and be able to be held accountable. Let’s hold ourselves to a higher standard and not feel sorry for others, but to start serving others.
Guess what? After only a few months I already feel more free or…liberated? Something a long those lines. I’m less bound by worrying about what others think of me and knowing that I’m getting better at possessing what I need and not what I want. I feel the freedom to spend my free time in a way that is more relaxing and replenishing to my spirit. And most importantly I feel like I have stared to declutter my mind and my life from the the meaningless things that stand in my way from hearing what my Father thinks of me and what He expects from me. He has plans for me and it’s more important to me to hear them and follow them than to collect clothing that others could be wearing, wasting food that others need so badly, or spending the time on silly things that could be better used.
Now, back to Christmas. What a wonderful time to start this practice! This Christmas, perhaps we can simplify. No need to go into debt to show each other that we care about each other. Allow yourself to spend time investing in others, to celebrate the holiday for what it is, the greatest gift to man. A child who came here to serve, not be served. I pray for a season where we can invest in others and allow them to invest in us. Merry Christmas friends, let us worship and rejoice together, near and far.
Matthew 6:25-“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life ?”