Last week, I wrote about a relative surprising me with a picture of my cluttered office. You could hardly see anything for the mess. I was embarrassed, ashamed and yes, even humiliated. To make matters worse, I realized my office wasn’t the only clutter. I am also guilty of a complicated, cluttered life. Ella Wheeler Wilcox wrote a beautiful poem that begins: “One ship drives east and another drives west, with the selfsame winds that blow: ‘Tis the set of the sails and not the gales which tell us the way to go.” Two ships driven by the wind, yet one stays on course. Why? How?
Ella continues her poem: “Like the winds of the sea are the ways of fate, as we voyage along through life: ‘Tis the set of the soul that decides its goal and not the calm or the strife.”
I was caught in the gales of a cluttered lifestyle? Are you? One answer for me is found in the word: simplify. We must learn to “set our soul and decide our goal so as not to be blown about by calm or strife. After seeing that picture, I recognized my need to simplify my own lifestyle. The reward is a life less complicated, not more. I can have more time, not less. And the fruit is the opportunity to enjoy a long-lasting, satisfying, rewarding, intimate relationship with almighty God.
This all sounds great but where do I start? For me, simplifying starts in my office. For a good part of three days I filled multiple trash cans with unused books, old gifts and files. Anything not needed including furniture was either given away or thrown away. People walking by looked at me strangely and then with a worried expression asked, “Are you moving to another church?”
While cleaning my office was helpful I need to do so much more. So, what is next?
In the parable of the farmer sowing seeds Jesus says this about the seed growing in thorny ground: “The thorny ground represents those who hear and accept the Good News but all too quickly the message is crowded out by the cares of this life, the lure of wealth and the desire for nice things so no crop is produced.” (Mark 4:18-19) Jesus is describing a cluttered lifestyle.
Chuck Swindoll’s workbook: “So, You Want to Be Like Christ?” provides a good checklist:
- Do you say no enough to keep from being overly committed?
- Do you maintain a good balance between work and leisure time?
- Do you enjoy appropriate satisfaction in your accomplishments?
- Do you have spending and debt under control?
- Does technology simplify your life rather than complicate it?
I’m learning to ask tougher questions of myself: How can I more effectively control my hectic schedule? Is there a creative way to adjust my time to allow more room for God, my family… me? Can I learn to say no to more activities? How can I stop and truly appreciate my many blessings?
Max Lucado in a book wrote about a farmer who was discontent with his farm. He griped about the lake on his property always needing to be stocked and managed. The hills ruined his roads and added wear and tear on his vehicles. And those fat cows lumbered through his pasture. There was all the fencing and the feeding. What a headache. He decided to sell the place and move somewhere else. He called a real estate agent and made plans to list the farm. A few days later the agent phoned, wanting approval for the ad she planned to list in the local paper. She read: “A lovely farm in an ideal location – quiet and peaceful, contoured with rolling hills, carpeted with soft meadows, nourished by a fresh lake and blessed with well-bred livestock.”
The farmer paused and then said: “Would you read that ad to me again please?” After hearing it a second time, he said: “I’m sorry. I’ve changed my mind. I’m not going to sell. I’ve been looking for a place like this all my life.” Maybe the farmer discovered the answer to a cluttered lifestyle.
Paul wrote: “I have learned how to be content whether I have much or little.” (Philippians 4:11) Maybe the real secret of a simplified life is in learning how to be content with much or with little.