“A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.” -James 1:8
It was just last year my daughter was born, and I cried when I first held her. It was only a week ago that my son came into the world and my heart was filled with pride. And just yesterday I was graduating college. This is the reality of time. It goes forward. The past compresses down to blurry images on the side of an American highway.
I only have so much of this thing called time. The kitchen needs some touch up with the paint. The bathroom has a loose knob that needs attention. My novel is sitting on my desk half edited. The list of tasks to be accomplished keeps getting longer, and I keep falling further and further behind.
And as I hide God’s word in my heart, the teachings of Jesus keep on speaking. “Seek first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you.” Or, “No man can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other.” And it points to a life that is far from me. A life of simplicity. A life of focus.
What does this kind of life look like? It is a life of purpose -when there is a center, then decisions have criteria whereby they can be evaluated. It is a life of freedom - you are not bound by competing voices that demand your allegiance. It is a life of generosity - you have margin of time and money that can be given away to those who have need. I want to know this life. But how do we find a life of simplicity in a culture that treats burnout as a point of pride? Here are some rules I live by.
1) Don’t say yes to every opportunity.
There are a thousand good things that we can give ourselves to. There are too many in fact. There are too many causes, too many open doors, too many needs for any one person to carry. When I come to an open door in life, I do not immediately jump through. I take a moment to think, to pray, to truly evaluate. I ask questions. Can I carry this? If I add this weight to my life, what other things will suffer? Do I have the time to give to this? Cause if you say to yes to everyone and everything, then soon you no longer hold the steering wheel to your life. You have given it away to the many grasping hands.
2) Say No often
Here is the hard truth. Saying yes to something is by definition saying no to something else. If I have lunch at Chipotle, I am not having lunch at Qdoba. If I ask Angie to marry me, I am not asking any other woman to be my bride. If I say yes to the bowling league, I am saying no to everything else that may have wanted my Thursday evening.
So I say no alot. I say no to the many that I may say to the center. I say no to the good in order to say yes to the better. And this sounds good, but no one likes being told no. No I can’t hang out. No I won’t join you on this venture. No I don’t want to partner with you in your good cause.
I say no to the much in order to say yes to the best. It is hard. But the center is worth fighting for.
3) Don’t buy things you can't afford.
Debt is slavery. It is weight and burden. I am able to not work late hours, able to come home at the end of many days in order to give my time and heart to two children. I come home to bring my wife some sweet kisses. I come home in order to sit and enjoy the gifts God has given. I wouldn’t be able to come home if I had bought too big a house. I wouldn’t be able to sleep soundly if the cars were being repoed in the morning. But because we owe no man anything, we live free of that crushing weight.
There are a hundred things I would love to buy. But I save up for those things, and buy them when there is money in the bank. I don’t borrow for a car. I don’t borrow for a vacation. I don’t borrow for Christmas. We do what we can do, and no more. As I sit on my secondhand couch, a son punching one arm and a daughter snuggling the other, there is only joy.
So… those are some rules I live by in order to live a simple life. I will write more on this idea next week.