< What I Learned Teaching Sunday School: A Place Called Simplicity - Part 2 - Choices

Thursday, August 12, 2010

A Place Called Simplicity - Part 2 - Choices

Everyday we make basic choices. Choosing to get up or turn over again. Choosing to have breakfast or not. Choosing a healthy breakfast or a donut! Choosing to help someone else or live for ourselves. Even if we choose not to choose, in effect we are choosing to let life choose for us!

All of our choices, including the tiny everyday ones have the potential to be life changing. What we are today is a culmination of every choice we’ve ever made, including that of attitude or our reactions. If we feel that our life is complicated, rushed and stressed, we may think fate or circumstances have trapped us in this crazy lifestyle. But if we look closely we’ll see it’s the choices we’ve made each and every day. Volunteering for this project, saying yes to this activity, wanting a certain standard of living, wanting a big family.

The world today gives us a zillion choices. We have to become good choosers because a lot of the choices are really trivial in God’s eyes and they won’t matter for eternity. And they are taking too much of our time, thoughts and energy.

We will never reach a place of simplicity without making simple choices.

So how do we recognize a simplifying choice when it comes our way?

First we pare down the possibilities and weed out the options. We already have some limitations that help this: where we live, our age, our finances, being born male or female. We can overcome a lot, but can’t avoid all!

But, we also need to make some voluntary limitations if we want to simplify our lives. This is making a decision to live without something we might have had. It’s choosing to draw some lines; set some boundaries. Maybe spending less to have more to give.

Duane Elgin, a social scientist, said that “choosing to live more frugally on the material side of life allows us to live more abundantly on the spiritual side of life.”

Jesus limited His options. He was the Son of God. All powerful! In heaven He had no limits or boundaries. But He came to earth to help us; starting out as a newborn baby. During his ministry He traveled by foot. He hand-picked a few disciples to train. The author says that by limiting His options, Jesus was able to show us the power and beauty of a simple life obediently lived. He was able to demonstrate all that a simple human vessel is capable of once it’s been filled with the power of God.

Jesus is our example as Christians. He is who we are supposed to become like. You know we all talk about how wonderful cell phones and the internet are. And it is amazing that we are able to stay so connected to everyone. But that very connectedness can also be very stressful; there’s no down time any more!

I work in my yard a lot. More than I want to! And if I look at the whole yard and how many gardens I haven’t gotten too yet; how many bushes I need to trim, it literally overwhelms me! But when I’m out there listening to Christian music on my iPod and just looking at and working on making a small area of ground neat and tidy, it’s very peaceful and rewarding.

We get more out of things if we really focus on just one thing. I think that‘s one of the reasons we like vacations so much, we take a limited amount of clothes and stuff so we don’t have to make a lot of choices each day: what to use or how to dress. We don’t have all of our other activities and chores and friends competing for our time. We have renewed energy to focus on what we’ve chosen to do. We all know this, but knowing and doing are two different things!

So how do we begin to get rid of the nonessentials and the stuff that’s getting in the way? Because most things and people come into our lives originally for a reason. Our lives are organized around an essential priority which motivates our choices. Some people’s lives revolve around a strong, sane, unifying principle and they are pure to themselves. There’s nothing fractured or split or confused about their personalities. What they do reflects what they believe and who they are. When we find our inner point of order, we take a vital step toward simplicity.

The author gave the example of being rushed all the time; taking her kids to dozens of activities, helping at church and being on all the committees and in all the groups. She thought her central priority was her family, but in reality looking at this and seeing how she wasn’t really giving them quality time, she realized her inner point of focus was people pleasing. She was saying yes to everything and trying to do it all. And her life was scattered and fragmented. She began to have marital problems because they weren’t on the same path and she was stressed all the time. She said she finally realized she needed God in a serious way. She needed His unconditional love. That would quench her thirst for approval and confirmation. She needed to start making the choices which would bring her closer to Him and glorify Him. And that’s when she began to have real direction in her life. We have to put Him first and trust and praise Him.

She wrote this song: “We say show me and I’ll trust you. He says trust me and I’ll show you. That’s the way He turns our hearts to Him. We say change me and I’ll praise you, He says praise me and I’ll change you. That’s the way the love of Jesus is.”

We need to first see with our hearts what our eyes can’t see yet. This is what walking in faith is. Daily choices to honor, to trust, to praise, to put God first. It will all lead us to a simpler Christ focused life.

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