Dear Church Family,
The First Presbyterian Book Club gathered on Wednesday and discussed several works. One was called Gifts from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh. One of the things she contrasts is a life of simplicity versus multiplicity. With simplicity we live a focused and stripped down life but with multiplicity we spend our days pulled in many directions and given out piecemeal in drips and drabs. Reflecting on this, Lindbergh writes: Simplicity leads to wholeness and grace while multiplicity leads to fragmentation and is bad for the soul.
The amazing thing about her words is that she wrote them in 1955.
Over 60 years later, what in the world would she think of the “multiplicity life” now? I don’t know that she ever could have imagined our time when we type and drive, watch videos while waiting for a meeting, sleep next to a machine that buzzes and beeps all night long, and choose to constantly update our virtual crop on Farmville. As much as none of us could have imagined the pressures that would be upon us in 2016, her conclusion about its results still hold. A life of simplicity leads to grace and a life of multiplicity is rough on our souls.
One simple way we can begin simplifying is to begin with the outside. Instead of asking how much I need to live, ask instead how little do I need? Lindbergh describes this “shedding” process: how much shelter do I need? How many clothes? How many commitments on my day calendar? If we begin asking these questions about our outer life, it will begin to simplify our inner life. So that is the question. If I am feeling fragmented and empty and stretched too thin, how can I simplify? How little can I live with and what can I shed?
We can sometimes hear Jesus’ words about an austere life as disconcerting or even a threat but perhaps they are, at heart, a call to a life of simplicity. In Luke 9 we read that “Jesus sent the disciples out to proclaim God’s kingdom and to heal the sick. He told them, ‘Take nothing for the journey—no walking stick, no bag, no bread, no money, not even an extra shirt.’” Was he calling them to a life of austere suffering or was he calling them to a life of grace-filled simplicity? Perhaps what we fear giving up the most will be what leads us to the most joyful life possible. For multiplicity is not working. We know—can feel it within us—that it is bad for our souls. In our prayers this week let us ask God to lead us into at least one beginning step toward a life of greater simplicity; a life that leads to wholeness and grace.
Prayer: Loving God, you tell us to look to the flowers in the field and the birds of the air as our guidance for how you care for us. They “neither toil nor spin” and yet you hold them. Guide us into a life of greater simplicity. We want to have purpose and focus and not fragmentation. Help us to shed what keeps us from you. Help us to consider how little we need to live and then to act on that consideration. May we always and forever hold our focus on you and you alone. In your holy name we pray. Amen.
Peace of Christ be with you all,