During my teenage years my mom would regularly ask me to clean and declutter the garage; by regularly I mean every six months. She wouldn’t ask my brother, or my sister, or my dad, only me. Let me tell you, our garage needed decluttering. It was a mess on good days. It would get so bad that you couldn’t walk through it without feeling like you were in an obstacle course. I’ve come to realize there are two kinds of people, those with perfectly clean garages and those with very messy garages. You’d figure with all the practice I had that I’d be in the first group, but nope, my garage gets messy – really messy. However, when I clean it, it transforms in a spotless space, and my mom would still be very proud.
I’m sure you don’t have too look to deeply inside your heart and life to see and admit that our lives get as cluttered and crowded as some garages do. We let so many things into our life that things can’t help but get chaotic.
How many people do you know use words like this to describe how they’re feeling? Exhausted, tired, overwhelmed, over-scheduled, anxious, etc. This describes the rich, the poor, men, women, liberals and conservatives. It doesn’t matter who you are, things in your world get crazy. At some point we have to take stock at how things are going and make some decisions to simplify our lives.
Simplicity is a way of life, a calling, a certain way to balance all that life throws at us, by stewarding our time, our thoughts, our money, our gifts, our skills, our calendar, our emotions, our everything.
What if we could end each and everyday with gratitude for how we invested our day? Knowing that in each and every moment we chose what was best.
Simplifying takes work – it’s rigorous and hard, but worth every bit of the pain and discipline.
For those of us who are discovering what it means to follow Jesus, the purpose of simplification comes down to one thing, hearing the whisper of God in our lives.
In Luke 10 we read a very short, but powerful story about Jesus and his disciples finding themselves at the home of two women, Martha and Mary. Martha, as would have been first century custom, was preparing some food in the kitchen, Mary on the other hand made her way to the other room with Jesus. Martha comes over and gets mad at Mary…and Jesus. She actually asks Jesus if he cares – that’s quite the accusation for a man who would eventually sacrifice his life for the whole world, Martha included. She’s mad at Mary for not helping her with the food. Jesus, with kindness and wisdom, responds to Martha with these words, “a few things are needed…indeed, only one…”
Martha wasn’t sinning by making food. Martha wasn’t doing even doing something wrong. Martha did what she thought she should be doing. Jesus simply wanted to help Martha capture the moment. You see, in that very moment, the best use of her time was not cooking, the best use of her time would’e been to join Jesus and listen to his words (of life). Mary, at least in this moment, got it. Not only did get it, but she broke a cultural boundary in the process. Mary stepped out of the ‘place/space for women’ (the kitchen) and walked into the living area (where the men gathered)*. Think about the cultural significance of this choice – it was quite risky and gutsy. Martha didn’t know what do with it. Jesus takes this moment to affirm Mary’s choice. (these and other things often got Jesus in trouble…good kind of trouble)
Jesus wants to help us simplify things. He invites us to choose well in every moment; to unclutter what’s gotten in the way of us truly living so we are able to hear and listen to his voice.
For the next 7 posts (Sunday’s) we will look at how we can simplify the most important things in our life: finances, schedules, relationships and decisions. However, lets get to the most important part of this conversation first – Jesus asks us, like he does to Martha, to get this first decision right, to choose him. We will always be faced with decisions to choose well in every moment. This happens with our families, with our work, and with our health. Those are all important things. But to get those things right, you gotta get this first thing right – choose Jesus.
Is it hard to make time for this? Yes. Does it take some effort to put aside time to read scripture, pray, and gather with community? Yes. Was it extremely difficult for Mary to cross a social barrier to be with and learn from Jesus? Oh yes it was. Is it all worth it? For sure.
Simplifying is about choosing the right things in your life. Jesus is the first and most ‘right’ thing for any of us. Choose well.
* In the first century, there were only two places women and men were together socially, in the yard with their children or in the bedroom with each other. In every other setting, men and woman remained separate. In Luke 10, Martha was where she thought she should be. Mary, on the other hand, went into the room where only men gathered. You can imagine how this looked, what it stirred, and how risky it all was. But Jesus, among the many things he was known for, was well known for being willing to break down barriers. Mary must have felt quite the stirring in her heart to take the kind of step she did. Unfortunately, we still see some of these inconsistencies in human rights today. I’m so glad that Jesus calls us to break away from those misconception and live in full harmony with one another.