Right now, I am sitting in my cozy little house, sipping coffee from the French Press. Outside March is doing its crazy thing, snowing, hailing, and raining at intervals, all with vigorous intensity. But inside it is warm and dry and the soup on the stove bubbles happily.
And my eyes are filled with tears. Because I have been reading the heart wrenching story of a young farmer mother in Kenya who works all day to harvest food for others but has only bowls of weak tea to give her children for breakfast. I don’t know what to do with the tension I feel.
Sometimes I just wish life was simple. You know what I mean? Like my days passed happily by like a parade of filtered Instagram photos of sunsets and cozy socks and pumpkin spice lattes. That all the children everywhere had food to eat.
“Live simply” is a popular slogan among my generation. The main thought is a good one: seek to free yourself from this consumeristic, fast-paced culture and learn to live with less. Be debt-free, work at what you love, cook real food, travel. Don’t fret about the little stuff and your life will be happier. People move here to Montana to escape the crazy suburban lifestyle. To find serenity in nature. To sip coffee over campfires. To post Instagram photos of you and a mountain. #authenticliving. #livereal.
I get it. I love cleaning out my closet and bringing bags of clothing to Goodwill. I like not having a car because there is so much more to see and experience on bike ride commutes. I long for simplicity, but often for mainly selfish reasons. Sometimes I wonder, as I look at myself if my search for simplicity could also a quest to be freed from the complexity and messiness of the world outside. Maybe what I really want is an easy and manageable existence, without pain and confusion.
But…what if when I slow down and quiet my life, ridding it of distractions, I actually discover life is much more complicated than I realized?
If I spend less time using technology and invest in person-to-person contact, will I discover friendships that involve much more than liking each other’s selfies? Will I pay attention to the homeless woman sitting in the snow outside the coffee shop?
If I spend less money on accumulating stuff I don’t use, will I see the endless ways my freed resources could be used to alleviate poverty? To feed the homeless in my neighborhood?
If we move to a smaller house to “minimalize,” will we still find room to bring people into our homes? Our lives?
As I seek to empty my life of things that do not matter, I must find and cling to and consume what does really matter. Something has to fill the spaces that clothing and money and busyness have occupied in my heart.
Lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely…run with endurance the race that is set before you, looking to Jesus
Ultimately the question is: what gives me meaning? As a sinner who has been saved by grace, whose complicated messes have been swallowed up in a beautiful thing called Gospel, whose self has died, buried and risen to new life with Christ for the glory of God, my purpose is defined for me. It’s, simply, Jesus.
It’s Jesus. The enjoyment and glorification of Him is what gives my existence meaning. And maybe it means that I need to clean out some of the clutter—both in my closets, in my head, and in my heart–so that I can wholeheartedly pursue Jesus and pursue other people with His love. If the comforts of this life keep me from rolling up my sleeves and diving into the messes – than maybe some priority readjusting does need to occur.
Jesus, forgive me if I ever turn away a person or a situation because it looks “too messy.” You never did that, not once. From the manger to the cross, you were devoted to your divine purpose – bringing true peace into the lives of messy people like me. And that is why my daily decisions matter–what I buy, where I go, how I spend my time—they can all be a part of a greater Jesus-centered purpose. His kingdom advancing on this earth. His love spilling into me and out of me. May my time, my money, my home, my relationships, my resources…will all be invested there. Even when things get complicated, I want to be all in.
So I come to the mountain and I sit at Your feet and soak in Your words, the pattern for real meaningful living:
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 heavenFor where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Simply loosen your grip and lift your hands.
Do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on.Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?
Simply breathe out worries and breathe in new mercies.
But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
Simply stop performing and start serving.
But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.
Simply take off hatred and put on compassion.
Oh but Jesus, it would be much easier to keep going as I’m going. Keep riding my bike to work and drinking out of mason jars and pat myself on the back for “living authentically.” But I want my life to be so much more. I want it to be about You.
A wise man said: “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” And that idea led him to the forgotten and wild shores of Ecuador where he was brutally murdered for his gospel passion. His life was short and it was messy, but it was focused on one thing: simply Jesus! Like Paul, he decided to know nothing except Jesus Christ and him crucified. The love of Jesus defined his life and it defined his death. And from those bloody shores grew up a strong community of Christ-followers who had experienced the power of love and sacrifice.
Simply Jesus means I can close my eyes right here and now and pray for those Kenyan women whose stories lie open on my lap. I can ask for gratitude, for a generous and compassionate spirit. With simply Jesus, this moment right now, right here, can be meaningful, purposeful and beautiful.
Ever so slowly, moment by moment, there is a little less of me and a little more of Jesus. Beauty from the messes. Grace in the ordinary. That is what He does best.
Scripture in order of appearance: Hebrews 12, Matthew 6, Matthew 5, Psalm 51