My grandfather was a child of the Great Depression. His mother died in childbirth with his younger sister, his father died of a broken heart that Christmas. A family in their church took in the three kids, but times were tough, provisions meager.
I remember his stories of how they’d find joy with nothing more than a set of jacks. That was all they had. They lived a poor, simple life, but with a priority on church, family, and school. They didn’t miss what they didn’t have. What they had was enough.
Simplicity is Maintaining Margin in Your Life
While my grandfather and his brother both found great success and wealth later in their life, they still valued some of the simplicity of their youth. He knew all too well that life was more than the stuff we accumulate.
One of my favorite experiences, when I’d stay over at my grandparent’s house, was when we’d sit outside. They’d turn off the TV and we’d go outside, dragging lounge chairs out into the yard. I’d chase lightning bugs. We’d lay down and look at the stars, trying to find the constellations. It was a time of savoring the simple things, slowing down to rest and spend time with each other, and unplugging from the world.
“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”Matthew 6:19-21 (ESV)
The Spiritual Discipline of Simplicity
The spiritual discipline of simplicity is to intentionally shed the things of this earth that are keeping you from fully experiencing the life God desires for you. What are the things entangling you, holding you back?
Do you have too much focus on things? Do you need to declutter your house or cut back on a shopping habit?
Do you take on too much? Where do you need to say ‘no’ to cut back and simplify?
Are you making your holidays to busy and complicated? How can you scale back your celebrations? What if you bought fewer presents, did fewer activities, scaled back the parties?
Simplicity is letting go so that you can make more room in your life for God. It’s creating margin and space in your life to breathe more freely and loose the chains of the world.
Richard Foster in Celebration of Discipline says, “The Christian Discipline of simplicity is inward reality that results in an outward life-style.” It’s not about giving away all your things, but about putting your things in the right perspective. He goes on to say “Simplicity sets us free to receive the provision of God as a gift that is not ours to keep and can be freely shared with others.”
How to Practice Simplicity
- Declutter your home. Take one room at a time and throw out everything you don’t truly need. Or, collect one trash bag per day of clutter, waste, or items no longer needed. Continue for as long as you need to clear your home of excess.
- Declutter your schedule. Go through your commitments and activities. Where have you taken on too much? How can you start to say ‘no’ and create more margin in your life?
- Declutter your celebrations. How can you simplify your holidays, birthdays, family vacations? Focus more on your time together and less on the gifts, decorations, and events. Cut out whatever adds stress to your life.
- Declutter your free time. How can you simplify your free time? Turn off the TV and computer. Find an activity that brings you closer to God and do more of that.
- What in your life is taking your time and attention from God? What is claiming too much of your time and focus? Eliminate that distraction or addiction from your life.
The Spiritual Discipline of Slowing
I once caught myself always responding to “how are you?” with “I’m so busy”. That realization hit me like a ton of bricks. I was too busy, but I was also using busy as an excuse for not slowing down and giving more attention to the people in my life.
Intentionally slowing down your life will help you focus more on what’s really important and see God more clearly in your life.
Life is busy and if we keep running so fast all the time, we’ll wear out. Jesus was busy in his ministry, trying to accomplish a lot in only a few years, constantly surrounded by crowds of people demanding more and more of him. Yet, even Jesus modeled the need to sometimes slow down and rest.
Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.”Mark 6:31 (NIV)
How to Practice Slowing
- Find ways to intentionally slow down. Get in the longest checkout line. Take the scenic route. Drive on local roads instead of the highway. While you’re waiting, take note of what’s around you. Offer up prayers for the people you see.
- Make it a point to not use ‘busy’ as an excuse. Notice how often you’re tempted to claim ‘busy’. Instead, take the moment to be present and give your attention to whatever has interrupted you.
- Take more time for your meals. Eat lunch with a friend instead of eating at your desk while you work. Linger over dinner, focusing on conversation and connection. Make a point to meet one friend each week for coffee or lunch.
The Spiritual Discipline of Unplugging
I got my first iPhone shortly before my daughter was born. Facebook was gaining popularity and this new smartphone put more connections and data at our fingertips than we’d ever had.
I was fascinated with this new phone, posting pictures of my new baby girl to Facebook, connecting to old friends, Googling answers to all my new-mom questions. What started as a novelty, though, soon became an obsession.
That phone was with me everywhere I went, often capturing my attention more than the people I was with. By the time my second child was born, my toddler daughter was already mimicking Mom on the phone. She would play-act Mommy looking into a phone or computer, saying “I’m busy”.
Seeing the impact my constant work and connectedness were having on my children was a wake-up call. I began to set ‘device-free’ time where I would intentionally silence or hide my computer and phone, so I could fully focus on the people in the room. Breaking this bondage to technology was freeing and helped develop better relationships with my kids.
“Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace.”Ephesians 4:2-3 (NLT)
In our always-connected world, it’s important to unplug and focus on human, face-to-face interactions. We need each other and the deepest connections are formed in person, not over the internet.
How to Practice Unplugging
- Set aside an hour a day or a day a week to unplug. Turn off the phone, put away the computer, and focus intentionally on being present with the people in your life.
- Be intentional to schedule in-person with friends and family. Make a date for coffee or lunch and make it a ‘no device zone’.
- Write handwritten letters, instead of texts or emails. Maybe as you see the birthday notices on your calendar or on social media, send a handwritten letter instead of a post or text.
- Take a sabbatical from your online life. Take a week or a month to fully unplug. Go dark on social media (delete the apps from your phone to reduce temptation). Step away from email. Stay off the internet.
How will you simplify your life to draw nearer to God?
How will you practice the spiritual discipline of simplicity? How will you try to slow down and unplug?
What in this life is encumbering you and keeping you from God?
Are you focused on accumulating possessions? Is your house or schedule too cluttered for any margin? How can you simplify and remove what’s coming between you and God?
Are you running too fast, always busy? How can you slow down?
Are you addicted to your smartphone, the internet, or your work? How can you unplug and put more focus on the real people in your life?
The simple life is the free life. We need more margin so we can give God more opportunity to enter our lives.
Learn more about Spiritual Disciplines:
Interested in learning more about spiritual disciplines? Want to find another one that may be a better fit for you right now? Click here for more spiritual disciplines and how to use them to grow your faith. Also, below are some books I highly recommend on the spiritual disciplines. (These are affiliate links.)