We can often fall into the trap of thinking our lives are complex. And they are, sort of. We have family dynamics to navigate, school outings to raise money for, kids with hockey and ballet practice at the same time, church event this-or-that, a gnarl at work, a faltering relationship, schedules to juggle.
You know what’s on your list.
But complexity is actually often confusion. Not always (let’s not be naive), but often.
So what do I mean by “confusion”?
Confusion is around what our priorities are. When we’re confused about our priorities, we tend to cram our schedules with 1000 things. Why? Because we don’t know what our priorities are.
Maybe our minds are ill-at-ease and so need the distracting intoxication of busyness. Maybe we don’t have the willpower (or know how) to say ‘no’ to those who make demands on our time. Maybe we have become ‘trapped’ in a complicated web of relationships and commitments and have forgotten which direction is up.
Can things still be complicated, even if we’re not confused about our priorities? Yes. I’m no stranger to that. I pastor a church, have a family, and know the stresses and strains of a culture that is doing its best to suffocate you.
But is some of the complexity in your life confusion? Probably.
So set priorities.
In the tradition of Reformed spirituality that I call home, simplicity is closely related to sincerity, to authenticity, to freedom, to generosity.
The simple heart releases control from that over which it really has no control in the first place; simplicity is a valve slowly releasing anxiety and fear.
The simple (not simplistic) heart sincerely seeks first things first. For me, that is God. What is it for you? When you are able to answer that question, you have started the walk to a simpler, richer life.
In a classic book called Celebration of Discipline, Richard Foster suggests a few things for how we can outwardly express our simplicity:
- Buy things for their usefulness rather than their status
- Reject anything that is producing addiction in you
- Develop a habit of giving things away
- Refuse to be propagandized by the custodians of modern gadgetry (things that promise to save you time rarely do)
- Learn to enjoy things without owning them
- Develop a deeper appreciation for creation
- Look with a healthy skepticism at all ‘buy now, pay later’ schemes
- Use plain, honest speech
- Reject anything that will breed the oppression of others
- Shun whatever would distract you from your main goal
You can simplify your life. But you need to want it.
At the start of this blog I said the opposite of simplicity isn’t complexity—it’s confusion. I need to also share this: As I continue my own walk down of path of increasing simplicity, I have discovered that a synonym for simplicity is joy.
I think that an unclattered and simple heart was lodged deep within the genius of Albert Schweitzer—the professor, theologian, musician, doctor and writer. Before he formally gave up his many hats to serve as a physician in French equatorial Africa he wrote in a letter to a friend, “I want to be a simple human being, to do something small in the spirit of Jesus.”
Do you want to simplify your life? It will take some work. You will need to make some decisions.
But it will be worth it.
Joy is worth it.