Lately I’ve been working on living simply--and how I can make that possible in my life. I feel like I’m called to create simplicity as a foundation from which God will create me anew in a kind of everyday spiritual conversion. Today, I am honored to share with you the beginning of a reflection series on living simply that I started back during Lent and am striving to carry through the Easter season and beyond.
During Lent I followed St. Benedict’s Rule--a basic breakdown regarding simplicity: moderation; balance and flexibility; attending to the present moment; generosity of spirit; and time with God. I want to reflect on moderation today, in part because what’s happening to me now calls me to rethink and pray through some big changes.
We’re having a baby!
My husband has been building a storage shed to make room (in such a small living space) for our little one. While I know things will get complicated when it comes to all a baby *might* need, I hope to maintain some simplicity in the process. I considered my Lenten practice as I watched him pour concrete and then smooth it out to create a solid, level, even base for building. The metaphor was too attractive! This “concrete” way of thinking about building a life of simplicity compelled me to think of how anyone, in any situation, can co-create with God a renewed sense of self, vocation, purpose.
The reflection booklet Living Simply by Rev. Dr. Jane Tomaine in Notes from a Monastery: The Sacred Way Every Day has helped me to find focal points for prayer and action. Rev. Dr. Tomaine reminds us that “Moderation is an important ingredient in living simply because excess can affect us spiritually. In The Way of Simplicity, Esther de Waal writes that the desire to possess ‘will fill up that inner void which keeps a person open to the experience of God. ...While material goods are to be accepted, they are also to be regarded with detachment.’ ”
She reflects on the difference between wants and needs. That’s a pretty concrete way of action for most of us: separating the two, even when it comes to what we *think* is absolutely essential to us. In terms of the smoothed out foundation my husband labored over, this might mean deciding for ourselves what we’re willing to share, or give away, or not buy, or buy second-hand as the foundation of our practice--and then learn to appreciate everything as gift. I know I see my possessions as gifts: I thank God I have a reliable car, a roof over my head, a computer to use, etc. There are many things we could not imagine giving away, and we’re not all called to monasticism, but we can be called to examine ways in which we do not practice moderation.
Two other ways this booklet suggested moderation have little to do with possessions: time management and “reasonable expectations of others and ourselves.” If we practice moderation in these aspects of our lives, then we should be able to make time for those who need our help, honor and practice the talents we’re given, or listen to each other without the clutter and chaos of everyday life. That would make a great foundation on which to build any relationship. Recently my husband and I have established a “no TV Wednesday” and set aside time to pray together, read, or just talk. That’s made for really interesting discussions and revelations that the sounds of the TV had perhaps drowned out.
We will try not to fill our storage spot with extras--it would be ironic if we did--and seek to build upon this foundation a secure space for our child. Thinking about it for myself, I wonder about the de Waal quote the booklet mentioned:
Where in my soul do I need to create room for the experience of God?