25 Apr Simplicity Abandoned to my To-Do List
I have a confession to make: I have lost my way, and it is time to come home again.
Around the first of the year I shared that while I don’t make New Year’s resolutions, per se, I do often have a focus or theme for the year. For 2018 “simplicity” is my theme. For a couple of months, the focus on simplicity was a beacon of light that helped me navigate my days with intentionality and guided my decision-making for choices big and small. I discovered a tremendous amount of freedom and joy in living more simply. It was exactly the gift I had hoped it might be.
But then the wheels came off. Life became chaotic and in the chaos I lost the centeredness I had found in the practice of simplicity. I had little control about much of what happened—a series of potentially life-threatening health crises with members of my family, the deployment of a dear family friend to a dangerous part of the world, becoming sick with a nasty bug that rendered me nearly useless for a week, scheduling challenges that didn’t allow for enough recovery time—and all of this right in the throes of Lent and Easter. Rather than centered, I felt overwhelmed. Rather than joyful, I felt exhausted.
There was a time when I would have flogged myself, metaphorically speaking, for failing to live up to the discipline of simplicity I had embraced. I would have heaped mounds of guilt on my already stooped shoulders. Those days are, blessedly, past, at least for the most part. As a recovering perfectionist, I still sometimes succumb to the Inner Critic that berates me for falling short, but I am quicker at asking for and receiving the grace to let go and start again which is what I am doing today.
Pushing the “restart” button is one of the gifts of grace, a gift that we all desperately need. We need God’s grace, we need grace from ourselves, and we need grace from one another, which means we must be skilled at both giving and receiving grace. That’s not as easy as we sometimes imagine. Some of us are not comfortable at all receiving what we don’t “deserve.” But, we can never deserve grace. We can’t earn it any more than we can earn someone’s love. It must be freely given, or it is not grace at all.
Fortified with God’s grace, I returned to simplicity anew this morning. It felt good. I felt centered and ready for the day. But no sooner had I gotten to work than this spiritual practice was tested. Boy, that didn’t take long, I thought. The phone was ringing incessantly. An unexpected pastoral visit was needed. Two time-sensitive tasks were dropped into my schedule despite the week already being jam-packed. In the midst of all the activity and the demands for my time and attention—all legitimate, by the way—I have choices to make. How will I practice simplicity within the life I actually have? Will I treat the unexpected needs that cross my path as interruptions or as invitations? When the day or week changes course, will I be impatient or grace-filled? Will I become overwhelmed or pause in the middle of the frenzy to breathe and pray? Will I ask for help when I need it?
I still won’t get it right all the time, of course. But, today, pausing long enough to ask the questions, to breathe a prayer of gratitude, and to be conscious of the opportunity in front of me has enabled me to choose a little bit better. I choose to respond to human need before checking items off my “to do” list. I choose to trust God to open up the space I need to get all the necessary tasks done this week. I choose to walk in the grace and peace of Christ’s resurrection life. There is no need to be frazzled or harried. I am not alone, abandoned to get along the best I can. I am not lost. I am held by the ever-gracious love of God. Sometimes, it’s as simple as that.
Yours for the Kingdom,