Simplicity – developing the art of being contented


What does it mean to live a simple life?  I’ve been thinking about this for the last few days after reading an article on The Resurgence blog by Dave Kraft.  He writes:

Simplicity. That word keeps popping up! It comes up in conversations I’ve been having. I hear it used in movies and in books. It’s something people desire but have given up hope of ever experiencing. But I long for it—long to live a simple, uncomplicated and focused life, a life that is not moving too fast where I try to do too much. A life that is not allowing the ‘Tyranny of the Urgent’ to take over and run me ragged physically and emotionally.

He longs to live a simple, uncomplicated and focussed life.  I think we all can relate to that in some way or other.  I certainly can.

About eighteen months ago, whilst having a coffee with a friend, I made a decision to do just that – simplify, uncomplicate and focus my life!  And what was my motivation?  Well, I don’t remember the conversation exactly, but I do remember that I had been meditating about the account of Jesus’ discussion with Mary and Martha given in Luke 10.

Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”  (Luke 10:38-42 ESV)

What hit me was Martha’s busyness – running around serving and being distracted away from the most important person she would ever meet, Jesus.  Not that she was doing anything wrong.  Everything she was doing was good and needed to be done – just not right then!  Jesus was there!  The best thing to do was to spend time with him, sit at his feet, take time to talk with him and enjoy his company.  Mary got it right, she was there, sat at his feet – she had chosen correctly and Jesus wasn’t going to take that blessing away from her no matter how much Martha complained.

Jesus’ rebuke of Martha was not to put her down or to embarrass her.  She thought she was honouring Jesus by being busy and doing things for him.  She thought she was serving him.  But Jesus said Mary had the right idea.  Sitting at his feet, listening and enjoying his company.  Why?  Because Martha could have sat with her, and when the time was right they both could have gone and sorted out the serving together, and I like to think Jesus would have gone and helped them.

Is Jesus saying that being busy is bad?  No, I don’t think so.  In fact, I don’t think this passage is a comment on busyness at all.  I think it is a comment on priorities!  What Jesus is saying to Martha is that her priorities were wrong!

Being busy and organising the serving was important, but in this instance, sitting at Jesus’ feet was more important!

What’s incredible though, and I have no real evidence for this except my own experience, when we do start to get our priorities right, start putting our relationship with Jesus as the main thing – making sure he takes first priority in everything we do – then we develop a spirit of contentment, we become satisfied with what we have and where he has put us – and that in turn makes us reduce our busyness – or more importantly makes us realise the priorities across the rest of our lives.  As Dave Kraft continues in his article:

When I think of simply being myself, of operating simply in life and ministry, I am not thinking of being semi-retired, or of joining Henry David Thoreau on Walden Pond. I’m thinking of focusing on a few things in ministry and life, and practicing the advice of Steven Covey: “The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.” It’s about priorities and concentration.
Leaders I work with struggle to consistently keep things simple—to clearly know what they are about, what they are called to, and gifted to do. They bounce from one thing to the next, filling their schedules with lots of activities, being more reactive than proactive. Author and speaker Fred Smith says that “busyness is the new spirituality.” Many leaders are not content with who they are, where they are, what they are doing, and what Jesus is doing. They long to be someone else, be somewhere else, and do something else.
Whatever happened to simple contentment? Life seems to hurl a lot at us. Go there, do this, buy that, help with this, commit to that. I find it so easy to be distracted from the simplicity of who I am and what I am about. I’m often tempted to cave in to the expectations and demands of others—especially those whose opinions matter deeply to me. At times it’s difficult to hear the voice of God in the midst of all the noise of life.

This for me is what simplicity is all about – getting our priorities right and being content with where God has put us, knowing that when we do so we will hear his voice – because we deliberately put time aside for him to speak to us.

I thought the quote from Fred Smith, “Busyness is the new spirituality”, was very significant – and very true.  What I think this means is that people are trying to find meaning in their lives by being busy – but this can so easily backfire when tiredness and dissillusionment kick in.  Trust me I know this is true because I have been there.

What is the answer?  Put Jesus first, sit at his feet and bask in his love, then get the things done that need to be done knowing that he is with you as you do them – but with a contentment that comes through knowing that he alone brings meaning to your life.

How wonderful is that, eh?

(Read Dave Krafts full article here)

Photo by annia316 (copied from flickr under the CC Licence)

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