I had a brief conversation beside the tennis court a few weeks ago which revealed a big breakthrough someone was having, one that has stuck in my mind perhaps inviting me to change some things. The woman was limping slightly, the result of a skiing accident over spring break. Her ankle had been shattered. She had a couple of surgeries and some infection. Now four months later she was just beginning to get back to normal, this in fact being the first day in those months she had been able to put on a regular shoe. “I really think God has been teaching me a lesson,” she said. “Don’t go skiing?,” I asked. “No, bigger than that,” she said. “I think I need to simplify my whole life.”
I didn’t get to hear all that she meant by that revelation but the whole concept of spring break trips has become mighty elaborate. Not too long after I heard her comment, someone else told me how complicated his family’s summer vacations had become. The attempts to travel and make sure the children had meaningful world experiences was taking its toll on everyone. “We just need to cut some of that out,” he said.
And then, just last Saturday morning at the Curb Market, a friend replied to my asking how his summer had gone, “I’m tired of going, going, going. I just want to sit in my own living room for a while.”
This isn’t a slam on skiing trips or spring break adventures or even exotic vacations. But periodically we all get little invitations to take stock of our lives. Sometimes we feel called to take on more. Sometimes we may be invited to consider doing less. God can be involved in each of those callings. And usually we have to see that something is broken before we can be led to make adjustments.
Usually after we’ve gone through a complicated period in life, or spent a bunch of money, or been away from our routine for a while, we get the inkling that it’s time to calm down our environment. After we’ve experienced some chaos that little place inside us that needs peace calls out for some attention.
Summer can be a time of refreshment. Many of us get to take a break from work and go somewhere for a while like the beach or the mountains or the lake. Every once in a while I’ll hear someone tell me how wonderful their summer was and how they were able to recharge their batteries. More often, though, I’ll hear people talk about how exhausting their vacation was and how eager they are to get back into a regular routine. It’s like we’ve made leisure a contact sport and need recovery time after we get beat up by our adventures.
Part of the appeal of a disciplined prayer life is that it builds in some peace and simplicity. We connect with God and our deepest desires in those quieter times of prayer. We get to ponder the questions of our hearts. We get to breathe deeply and feel the thankfulness that our tasks and trips sometimes obscure. About this time of year, as I meet with people to talk about their prayer lives, I begin to hear from many that they yearn for a routine which will ground them. Prayer is a quiet practice that travels well but sometimes we fail to take it with us.
Having the resources to travel and take vacations is a pretty wonderful thing. But when Jesus talked about how hard it is for a rich person to enter the kingdom, he seemed to know the struggles many of us face with all our resources. Those same resources we might all consider to be blessings in life are often mighty distracting and burdensome. Sometimes it’s just exhausting to have all that stuff to take care of.
How might God be calling you to simplify your life? Maybe you need to make a dramatic change in your lifestyle, live more within your means, and stop chasing after some idol. Or maybe you might just need to pause and make your soul a little simpler. We’re complicated engines, we human beings, and it feels good to run those engines fast and hard. But we all need to pause and ask how healthy our pursuits really are.
Jesus reminds us that all we truly need will be provided and often exhorts his followers to sell their possessions and store up treasure in heaven rather than just here on earth. Sometimes living with less allows us to see more of the presence of God. And rooting our lives in prayer allows us to see how richly God provides.
Robert C. Wisnewski, Jr.