25 Jan Simplicity, Part 2
A few years ago I was doing some reading about Sabbath and Sabbath practices. It is tragic that for many people, “Sabbath-keeping” is associated with all the things you aren’t allowed to have or do on Sundays. A strict list of what can seem like archaic rules keeps all the fun out of the day and fills it instead with quiet and restful pursuits—an anathema to our over-stimulated, constantly moving, entertainment-demanding culture.
The irony is that Sabbath, done rightly, is a celebration. Even before my reading, I was familiar with the aspects of Sabbath-keeping that emphasize worship and resting from work. What came as something of a surprise to me was the degree to which Sabbath is a feast day, a celebration of family and friends gathered ‘round the table to enjoy the bounty and goodness of God’s creation. Once a week we have a special invitation to celebrate the abundance and variety of what the Earth produces to sustain us. But that only makes sense in the context of simplicity the other six days, and this is where we as Americans have lost our way.
Every day is a feast day for most Americans, and the statistics that track our overall health bear this out. Meat is consumed not sparingly but for many people, every day, or even multiple times a day. The same is true for sugar (my personal Achilles heel). Sodas, candy and desserts are the easily spotted culprits, of course, but sugar is hidden in loads of foods we buy, like salad dressing. We also over consume salt and fat, and the warnings associated with processed foods and fast foods are legion.
My longing for simplicity (see last week’s blog) has led me to examine my relationship to food in a similar way that I am doing with my relationship to “stuff.” Is it possible that my eating habits are holding me back when simplicity is the way of greater freedom? What would happen if I ate foods closer to their source—which not surprisingly, are exactly the foods that nutritionists tell us are the healthiest: fruit, veggies, whole grains? How much is enough?
I am a steward of my body and my health in the same way I am a steward of all the gifts God has placed in my care: my children, financial resources, education, the church I serve. That means that health is a deeply spiritual issue. We don’t have complete control over our health—genes have a lot to say about that. But, I am responsible to take the best care that I can of the body I have. I do try to exercise with some regularity. But I struggle with getting enough sleep, and changing poor eating habits seems to be one of the hardest things for people of all stripes to do and maintain. Approaching it from the standpoint of simplicity is helping me discover new motivation and staying power, however. I physically feel better when I eat more simply. It doesn’t solve every ache and pain, but it makes a noticeable difference, and it gives me the same sense of freedom and peace that I get from incorporating simplicity in other parts of my life.
The “final frontier” for embracing simplicity is my schedule. Organization guru Julie Morgenstern points out that clutter can also be in the form of habits. Habits that drain our time and energy without renewing us in any way are clutter—and they need to be dealt with just like my twelve pairs of black pants. That is not to say that we should never check up on our Facebook friends, play a video game, or watch our favorite TV sitcom. But how much is enough? And are there other, more meaningful goals or pursuits that are suffering because our time is spent less worthily? Even more, are truly important relationships and tasks being neglected because we get lost in mindless pursuits?
I am not capable of making a lot of significant changes all at once which is why embracing simplicity feels like I’m doing one thing instead of numerous things. Each day and throughout the day, I seek simplicity, because I am learning that simplicity leads me closer to being the person I want to be—not 100% of the time, of course, but more and more often, the better I get at practicing it.
For me, choosing simplicity is creating space for more joy and more peace, exactly the abundant life Jesus wants us to have. If simplicity as a spiritual discipline strikes a chord with you, please share your experiences with us, that we can learn and grow together.
Yours for the Kingdom,