Welcome to my Thursday series on “Living a Simple Life.” If you would like to go back and read previous installments of my simple living journey, start here. I have really appreciated the comments/e-mails from those of you who are following along this journey with me (or just joining me for the first time!). Your comments, questions, and suggestions are always welcome!
When I first started writing this series, I attempted to share my story of how we began our journey of Simple Living. Each week, I share either a recent occurrence in my life to illustrate my Simple Living perspective, or reminisce about previous events that have brought us to this point. Above all, it is a story of what God has done in our lives; it is ultimately about Him, not us.
In a nutshell, I live a simple life because it is what God created me to do. Even as a child, I pulled away from the “embarrassment” of extravagant store-bought gifts, and I treasured wildflowers, seashells, homemade doll clothes, handwritten notes, simple, modest dresses, and vintage quilts and aprons. I would spend my free time reading a book in a meadow or praying while gathering flowers alongside a creek.
Simple, beautiful pleasures have always pointed me to the safety of our creator God’s arms. Our Heavenly Father loves to give His children good gifts! He was the shelter in the storms of my childhood, and still is today. I treasured stories of God’s personal relationship with people such as Corrie Ten Boom, and His miraculous provision and protection for them.
I never felt a prompting from God saying “I want you to live a simple life, so that you can do ______.” (Fill in the blank: give more money to the poor, travel and heal the sick, immerse yourself in a skill/task, etc…) He didn’t offer an explanation or any of these “honorable” reasons, and my innocent child-heart didn’t ask for one. I just knew my heart was at peace when I sought to glorify God and enjoy Him.
As I grew older, I often tried to give my human explanations as to the “goodness” of my pursuits, but this only served to build up walls in my relationship with God; substituting my will for His. God calls us to obey, often doing “unreasonable” things without knowing why or how.
My life needs to point others toward Christ, with Him as my “explanation;” not pointing others toward me, to look at what I am doing with my life. For some people, God truly may offer concrete reasons as to what/why they are called to a certain pursuit. But sometimes He calls us to live by simple faith (remember Abraham, Enoch, Noah, Moses). When I fully relinquish my life to God as my Lord, I don’t need reasons. I know I can rest in Him. (I may end up doing some of those “reasons,” but only as He allows. I may even be “unaware” that it is happening!)
In allowing God to guide me in living simply, I have found that life is inherently more fulfilling. (Isn’t it a nice feeling to do what He made you to do?) I continually to prayerfully set goals, and work to achieve them, as I ask God to continue molding and shaping me into who He wants me to be. When I am in a right relationship with God, ideally, I will be seeking after His will, and not pursuing goals to attain reward or recognition for myself.
Pursuing goals in and of themselves can be a “slippery slope,” though. Once honorable motives can quickly (or gradually!) slide into desires for “something better” or instant gratification. (I think our typical American society is especially prone this- even to irrational lengths- but it is seen as normal, or even expected.) Our goals need to be submitted to Christ, and continually checked by His Spirit, lest they meander into a wayward path.
At one point, I was seeking a sociology/anthropology minor in college, and sat fascinated in the many lectures I attended. It was incredible to see the vast difference between a typical American life experience contrasted with lives of others around the world. The “McDonaldization of America” theory especially resonated with me. As so many expect instant gratification (even many respected churches!) or regular “upgrades” in life, God’s will can often be ignored or forgotten.
As we fill our ears with the constant noise of advertisements, streaming entertainment/news, or self-help tips, we may be drowning out God’s gentle whisper, urgently calling us “further up and further in” (see C.S. Lewis’ book The Last Battle).
I have found that as I go without many things that others deem “necessities,” I actually sense a greater freedom and satisfaction in life. I am not spending my time accumulating, caring for, or protecting things. (I can only speculate how much time is wasted with mall shopping, picking up dry cleaning, or dusting excessively large homes!) There is also a wonderful freedom in not worrying about payment plans on credit cards, overdrawing the bank account after a shopping spree, or hoping the locks/security systems are working to protect accumulated purchases.
I also find that working with a limited supply of honest materials (local, handmade, fair-trade, etc.), is much more satisfying that an abundance of poor materials. (An interesting video on this topic is here: Story of Stuff; although it is not from a Christian perspective, I think it is worth watching.) I simply do my best to use what God has given me to the most of its capabilities, and care for them as a trustworthy steward.
As a wife, mother, and friend, I want to live a life that inspires others to stop and listen to God calling them; to fully live the life they were created for. I want them to allow God to work His will within their lives, and not watch them expend their energy in merely doing “good things.” This doesn’t necessarily mean, though, that their life will look like mine. For all I know, God may yet call someone to live an “extravagant” lifestyle, such as Esther for “such a time as this.” But I do know that their hearts must be simply in tune to His voice.
For instance, when I model homemaking skills to my daughter, she gets a first-hand view of delayed gratification. I often bypass “ready-made” items in a store, saying “We can make that at home.” As we go about our day at home, she can watch me mending clothes by hand (instead of automatically buying new ones), seasoning and roasting a whole chicken (instead of buying a package of cooked chicken breasts or a frozen dinner), watering and waiting for our lettuce to grow (instead of buying a bunch shipped across the country), and waiting for bread to rise (instead of buying a chemical-laden loaf).
In her book Fearlessly Feminine, Jani Ortlund encourages women to be aware of this issue. Susan Schaeffer Macaulay also wonderfully explains the importance of immersing our children in these realities of daily living, in her book For The Children’s Sake.
Such seemingly simple tasks illustrate our need for patience (as I frequently remind her!); waiting for God’s timing to respond, bless, and guide us through life. We often sing the song “Trust and Obey” together; it seems quite fitting for most situations!
Additionally, I embrace the simple pleasures these tasks provide: the smell of bread rising, the feel of thread sliding through fabric in my hands, the smell of fresh air as we walk to the market. Taking joy in the tasks God has given us is imperative. As I joyfully obey Him, I have a peace that nothing else can give.
To be continued… Join me next week for Part 10!