A good friend of mine was talking to me a few months ago. We stay in touch often, reaching out when we are falling back into old habits, hurts or hangups. He and his wife moved recently. In the process of packing up he said “We are trying to simplify our lives with the amount of stuff we have. And we’re also trying to simplify to get to a point of “Jesus only,’ but it is so, so hard to simply say and live “Jesus only.'”
That has sat with me for awhile. The trend in the States and in most of Europe is to simplify what material possession we have. Whether people do it to be trendy or they believe they need to live a more simplified life, the desire is there. I think this is great. However, what I’ve noticed in my own journey, is that I tend to complicate my life, especially my relationship with God. I put things in that shouldn’t be there. I put barriers that hinder my understanding, warp my view and distort my perspective on God, creation and others. Out of my own sinful and dysfunctional nature, I am almost trying to sabotage my relationship with my Creator.
I love documentaries. Be it the best sushi chef in the world, a year in the Arctic or about an incredible road cyclist, I really enjoy watching them. I love to learn, and watching documentaries are one way I broaden my understanding of the world and my perspective of it. One documentary I watched not too long ago is called “180° South.” It’s about a guy who tries to recreate a trip that Yvon Chouinard, founder of Patagonia Clothing, and Doug Tompkins, Founder of The North Face, took back in the 60’s to the Andes in South America. Incredible photography and an engaging story line, it’s worth the watch. In one shot, they have a dialogue about the ecological state of the world that I think is important to this topic of simplifying.
Yvon-“The hardest thing in the world is to simplify your life. It’s so easy to make it complex. What’s important is living an examened life.
Doug-In response to when people say you can’t go back, well what happens if you get to the cliff? You can go one step forward or do a 180 degree turn and take one step forward. Which way you going? Which is progress?
Yvon-The solution maybe for a lot of the worlds problems is to turn around and take a forward step. You can’t just keep trying to make a flawed system work.
I believe there are sacred moments in the secular world that are important for us to perk up and pay attention to and this is one of them. What Yvon said in that short discourse is true of our spiritual journeys in relation to God. What I have found is most of us feel unsatisfied or perhaps dissatisfied with ourselves and our relationship with God. What we do, or at least I know I do, is try to put things into my relationship to make it “feel” better. Perhaps give more, pray more, read more, try this trend or that. Do whatever the “other guy” is doing. Yet in the end, I feel more dissatisfied, disappointed or discouraged in myself, usually, and occasionally in God.
Complicating my life be it with material things like tech or social media or spiritual things like the “shoulds” is incredibly easy. It’s when I begin to strip away those things (some of those are incredibly intertwined with my being) that is hard. When it is Jesus Only, we are stripped bare, naked, completely exposed before Christ and others. But, and this is the joy behind it, it is in those moments that we are fully embraced by the light of Christ. Nothing to block it, nothing to hinder it from touching our skin and every dark area of our life.
Simplifying isn’t easy, but it is freedom.
Are you simplifying or are there boundaries hindering you? Have you experienced simplifying and God on the other end? Or are you in process at the stripping stage? Either way, I’d love to hear your story.