What is simplicity?
According to Webster’s dictionary, simplicity is…
- the state, quality, or an instance of being simple. [Yes. Thank you, Captain Obvious]
- freedom from complexity, intricacy, or division into parts
- absence of luxury, pretentiousness, ornament
- freedom from deceit or guile; sincerity; artlessness; naturalness
- lack of mental acuteness or shrewdness
I like the sound of the word simplicity. I like the images of serenity that I associate with it. I romanticize about simplicity with visions of barefooted children running through a field of dandelions in crisp white crew neck T’s, me on a blanket sipping a yerba-mate. And then I remember that this isn’t a fantasy at all, but rather the title menu of my pre-natal yoga DVD.
In the foyer of my thoughts on the subject, simplicity is achieved when streamlined goals meet tailored systems of execution transforming me into the cheeriest version of myself. The laundry gets folded, the checkbook gets balanced, the birthday cards get sent, and the miles get run. Historically, this anal retentive euphoria lasts for about a week. And then…
… a child gets sick
… someone asks me to dog sit
… it’s Christmas
… the season premiere finally airs
… my best friend needs to vent
… A major home appliance malfunctions
… the iPhone falls in the toilet
These unexpected inevitabilities throw a curveball through the glass window of my “priorities” before I remember that simplicity, or freedom from complexity (thank you, Webster) is more of a fluid concept than a concrete aspiration.
Now that I have taken a seam ripper to my preconceived ideal of simplicity, what, pray tell, does it mean to simplify one’s life?
I would like to suggest that the act of simplification is making room for life’s interruptions. Have you ever noticed how Jesus was constantly interrupted. Or was He? Some of the most memorable narratives in Scripture begin with, “As He was on his way…” Clearly, Jesus had priorities — places to be, people to meet, sermons to preach, and obligations to fulfill. And yet He regularly detoured off his designated path to forgive, to provide, to comfort, to answer questions, to call His disciples, and to share a meal with some of the more colorful members of society. Underneath the umbrella of “My Father’s will,” Jesus intersected people’s lives at a critical faith junctures instead of regarding their needs and questions as intrusive disruptions — which is more than I can say for myself. That is why He is Jesus, and I am not. Jesus redefined simplicity from reducing unnecessary hassle to hosting unexpected opportunities.
How should Jesus’ example of a simplified life influence me as a wife/mother/homemaker in the 21st century when…
…a grieving friend asks for a sympathetic ear?
…a chance to meet a basic human need comes to my attention?
…my preschooler asks me to sit and read her a story when dinner is boiling over on the stove?
…my husband’s best friend comes from far away to stay in our home?
…a lonely stranger wants to share his story?
The Gospel Story is written in between the lines of all of the “interruptions” mentioned throughout Scripture. Perhaps if I reorient my life to leave room for the unexpected, my story might just start getting good.
The reality is that simplicity is less about hemming, starching, and pressing my priorities into their proper place and more about making room for divine interruptions. It is not my mate-sipping fantasy, and it does requires silohs-full of grace to put into practice. But if it means freedom from pretense, increased sincerity and wholeness, and unexpected blessing, then it appears my fantasy may have been due for an upgrade.
How can you put simplicity into practice? We’ll look at that in the next article …