Tuesday we talked about the concept of Biblical simplicity. Today I want to take it a step further and highlight some things that have really helped me clarify my own life and purpose in the last few years. I’m no expert, but I have dwelled on this subject for longer than I care to admit, and there are a few questions that have aided me tremendously as I continue to struggle with refining myself. Read, respond, talk back, disagree. I’d love to hear your thoughts on cultivating a simple life!
1. Who am I? What an impossible question! We can answer it a dozen different ways and I’m not sure that any of them get at the heart of the matter. Our knee-jerk reaction is to start listing off the things we do, the people we know, and the places we’ve been as indicators of our inherent worth. But you have to resist the urge to rattle off a list of accomplishments and instead focus on what brings you joy and gives you peace. When are you the most you–living life and loving it? Chances are the person you were created to be is tied up in those moments.
2. What do I have to do? Whether we like it or not, there are some things that complicate our lives that we are just plain stuck with. Cleaning the house, doing laundry, getting groceries, cooking… Or maybe you love those things and your “have to” list is very different. Whatever it looks like, every one of us has to accept the fact that part of life is discipline. Finding peace in our circumstances means making peace with the things we have to do, even if we don’t like them. I try to cultivate a sense of accomplishment when I’ve crossed one of those things off my list. Laundry may not feed my soul, but it keeps my children warm and well cared for. And there is something beautiful in that.
3. What do I want to do? Here’s where we can start to focus on the things that God made us for. For me, the top three things I want to do are write, read, and play. I think writing and reading are self-explanatory, but one of my absolute favorite, most “me” things to do is play. In the snow, with my kids, for no reason at all… My husband teases me that I’m a kid myself, and in times of heavy stress when I don’t have that particular outlet I dislike the person I become. I think play feeds my optimism, my belief that life is beautiful even when it is hard.
4. What can I contribute? I believe heart and soul that we were created for community. We are not meant to be alone! And part of existing in community is participating in the life of that community. It’s give and take, and if you aren’t giving your share the entire community suffers for it. (Of course, we could talk for days about the unbalanced nature of most communities, but ideally the give and take would be equitable.) What gifts or skills can you offer in service?
So, that’s my list. In trying to simplify my life, I focus on what I have to do, what I want to do, and what I can contribute. Kind of like a Biblical understanding of stewardship and dealing with money (save some, spend some, give some). Or the Biblical concept of engaging life with your head (What do I have to do?), heart (What do I want to do?), and hands (What can I contribute?). Everything else is details. And it’s hard not to get caught up in the details… My friends got really into scrapbooking for a while, so I felt like I had to scrapbook, too. Guess what? I stink at it, I don’t enjoy it, and it’s a huge time drain. So it’s gotta go. I also don’t do any sort of craft (knitting, crocheting, sewing, etc.), play groups drain me, and I pretty much have to say “no” to anything after 9 p.m. because I’m exhausted and worthless. I know my limitations in those areas. But I also know that there are many other areas that I keep forcing myself into because I haven’t yet figured out that I’m trying to be someone I’m not.
Yikes. That’s a lot to chew on. Please understand that this post is a compilation of my own ideas–like I said earlier, I’m no expert and this did not come from some sage, infallible source. Talk back. Disagree. I’d love to hear what you think about living simply!