So what does it mean to live simply?
I think we can best approach the discipline of simplicity by first looking at its absence. We know when we aren’t living simply because we feel the effects on our relationships, our emotions, and our spiritual health.
Try this exercise with me. Aim to honestly reflect on your own life using these questions. As you do, seek to form a sense of what simplicity is, what it isn’t, and what it could be in your life.
• Do I have too much “stuff” cluttering my life? Am I using possessions to try to fill an inner void or satiate spiritual restlessness? How ought I view my possessions in light of issues like global poverty? What spiritual “side effects” of consumerism and materialism might I be suffering from?
• Is my time crowded with commitments and responsibilities clamoring for my attention? Do I feel there is not enough time to live fully? How much of this is within my control? Do I regularly seek to discern, as best I can, what God wants me to focus on with my time?
• Do I have energy for my most important relationships? Am I trying to be “best friends” with too many people? Do I have space or “margin” in my life to minister to others? Am I seeking God’s leading in who to invest my time with?
• Is my “self” pulled in many different direction? Am I juggling too many pursuits or aiming at too many targets, unable to really engage with any of them well? Are my emotions frazzled as a result of aiming for too much? Do I try to be too many things in life or follow too many dreams? Do I try to have my cake (and my coffee and my sorbet and my creme brulee) and eat it too?
• Is my spirit centered and focused on Jesus? Am I “in tune” with the Holy Spirit, quiet enough within to hear his voice and receive his comfort? Do I prioritize and follow the commands and directives of the Father in my life?
These can be guilt-inducing questions, but resist the urge to wallow in guilt. None of us are in a state of perfect spiritual- and life-balance!
Yet the discomfort these questions cause is, I think, a good thing. In this discomfort we can invite God to speak to us — and we can listen to his guidance — as we seek to practice simplicity in our lives.