Of the 10 definitions given by Merriam Webster for the word ‘simple,’ only one is derogatory. The other nine are positive…though that isn’t how we often tend to use the word. For most of us, we use the word ‘simple’ in the condescending, derogatory sense cited by Webster:
lacking in knowledge or expertise;
not socially or culturally sophisticated
While part of us wants desperately to consider ourselves ‘sophisticated,’ I want to challenge you to use three other definitions listed by Webster to think about the simple life:
free from vanity;
not limited or restricted
free from vanity
If our current culture is anything, it is vain. Check out the magazine aisle, turn on the TV, browse around the web…you can’t miss it. Honestly, you’ll have a hard time getting away from it if you try! Ours is a culture obsessed by the thin veneer of appearances but one that is more-often-than-not lacking in any meaningful substance. I could list a host of examples of the vanity and silliness that dominates much of our day-to-day life, but I won’t.
I’m over it. You should be too. Be who you are, who God created you to be. Stop worrying about what fashionistas say about what should be in your closet, what Hollywood says about how large your breasts or how small your waist should be, and about what HGTV thinks your house has to have inside it. These are all veneer. These are all expensive, not only in cash but in time, energy, space. They are all restrictive in the sense that they divert you from being able to look beyond yourself to the rest of the world.
Live free from vanity, live simply.
What are you about? What do you stand for? What are your passions? How would your neighbors, friends, or co-workers answer those questions about you? Do you have a cause / dream / idea that really gets you excited or do you just stumble through life, day by day?
As I read through Hole in Our Gospel, by Richard Stearns…for the forth or fifth time, it’s easy to say what he is about. Richard is about living out the whole gospel of Jesus and encouraging others to do the same. From reading his words this passion comes across as plainly as if he wore it on a sign around his neck. But he doesn’t have to, his life reflects it unmistakeably.
If other people were asked those questions about me, I’d hope they would answer something to the effect of, “T.C. is passionate about his family serving others, near and far, in the name of Christ.” Surely not everyone would answer that way…I’m on this journey too. But that is the vision I’m working toward, and in theory it’s a simple one. How do you want others to be able to describe you in a single sentence? If that isn’t how people would describe you today, how will you focus on that passion to make it reality?
Live a life that is readily understood, live simply.
not limited or restricted
One thing I love and admire about minimalists (Everett Bogue, Tammy Strobel, Leo Babauta etc.) is that they aren’t unnecessarily tied down by ‘stuff.’ By American standards, my family is not rich, but by the standards of the rest of the world we’re wealthy beyond compare and have tons of ‘stuff.’
For example, between being a bibliophile in general and a recent seminary graduate, I have tons and tons of books. Recently, I’ve been going through them with the goal of cutting down several cases (not shelves) worth of books. Many of them I’ve given away. Some I’ve thrown away. Some I’ve sold to raise money for our adoption. Right now I have two boxes I’m going to sell and donate the proceeds to charity–freeing me of ‘stuff’ and allowing me to impact others.
What do you have a wealth of…books, clothes, CDs, DVDs, trinkets, (fill in the blank)? Do you own it or does it own you? How could you benefit from decluttering? How could others benefit?
Live a life that is not limited or restricted, live simply.
In the days to come, we’ll look at some tangible ways to move in the direction of simplicity. Will it require a change in mindset? Yes. Will it require a change in priorities? Yes. Will it be worth it? Yes!