September 11, 2014

Simplify


A pretentious, showy life is an empty life; a plain and simple life is a full life. ~Proverbs 13:7 MSG

A good friend of mine and her husband are planning to move from Phoenix to the Pacific Northwest soon. They want to simplify their life, so they are looking at acreage where they can live modestly and raise animals. They are both into animals (dogs mostly), and they like organic living. They have been talking about doing this for a long time, and finally, they made the decision to go and look at locations to see if it was doable for them.

I think the whole idea of living simply is an interesting one. I like the premise -- living off the land, reducing outward possessions, relying on the bare essentials necessary for living. I don't think it is something I could do, well, not any more. I think it requires a lot of self-sufficiency and hard work. Not that I have anything against hard work, it is just the kind of hard work needed to live this way. I have several other friends who live in rural places in the US. They have horses, cattle, pigs, goats, etc. Small farms or ranches require 24/7 care. There is always something to fix or some animal needing care. I love the idea of this kind of lifestyle, but there is part of me that wonders if living in isolation is a good thing, Biblically-speaking. I am not judging those that do because I do not know if the Lord has called them to this way of living, I am just thinking more in general terms, or about making this decision for reasons prompted by more worldly concerns.

I used to think that it was better to live off-the-grid, so to speak, then to exist within the mish-mash of civilization. My former spouse was always on about living off-the-grid. He wanted us to have an Internet based business where we could live anywhere but still make income. He always talked about moving to the mountains or traveling around the country in an RV. He believed that it was possible to earn income through online sources and live off that income anywhere so long as there was Internet connection. I thought the idea of living in the mountains was great, but I never wanted to be a "rolling stone." For me, having roots, living in a home, was always very important. I never cared if that home was super nice -- I just wanted a place to call home, a place to call my own. 

I do understand the draw for people to the country. I mean, why not live the rural life, away from people, and enjoying God's beautiful country? It sounds idyllic. I imagine how wonderful it would be to wake up and look out my window and see trees (and not the block wall fence separating me from my neighbor). I love the smell of the country (yes, even the stinky smell of animals), and I love the rolling green hills, meadows and ponds. I would be very happy living in the country, I know this is true. However, as I have gotten older, and I have come to devote my life to the Lord fully, I think more about the ministry aspect of living in isolated rural locations. Is living off-the-grid fulfilling the Lord's command for us to go and make disciples? Is this kind of living so far from people (souls) a good thing? 

Again, I am not judging others who feel the Lord has open doors for them to do this, but for me, I think my ministry calling is about people and not animals. My ministry is to build up and encourage the church, and while we (believers) are the church (individually and corporately), we also are commanded to gather together in community. For sure, rural folks go to church, so living in the country doesn't necessarily mean living outside that community. I am thinking about people who live an hour or so away from other people or who live so far from a church where they cannot attend each week. For me, I feel that the Lord is calling me to stay connected to people, and those people are going to be found mostly in towns and cities. So while I would like to live in the country, for sure, I don't think I want to live so far out that I am isolated or far from conveniences like stores, church, etc. I think it is possible to enjoy God's beautiful creation while still remaining connected to people, God's people, and to those who so desperately need to hear the good news.

As I consider Proverbs today, I meditate on the worlds "a plain and simple life is a full life." I wonder what Solomon was thinking when he wrote this proverb. In truth, he didn't have a plain and simple life. He was one of the wealthiest people to live on this planet, and his life was far from modest or simple. 

The KJV says it this way, "There is that maketh himself rich, yet hath nothing: there is that maketh himself poor, yet hath great riches." The Amplified, one of my favorite versions, says it best (I think):

One man considers himself rich, yet has nothing [to keep permanently]; another man considers himself poor, yet has great [and indestructible] riches.

The AMP seems to echo the words recorded in Matthew (or vice versa) 6:21:

Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.

It seems to me that Solomon was saying that the attitude of the heart is what matters most. Living a pretentious or showy life is a life built upon pride, pride in one's accomplishments, in one's achievements, in one's own works. Living a simple life, a life that is plain and modest, is a life that focuses on the inward matters, the heart matters. Likewise in Matthew we are cautioned to remember that whatever we store up as treasure in this life will be an indicator of our heart condition. Therefore, if we are focused on outward things, living a grand or rich life, then our heart's desires are fixated on such things. If we seek a modest or humble life, then our heart is focused on the things of a similar nature.

I wonder sometimes if the desire to live off-the-grid is more about show or if it is more about stripping away the things of the world that captivate and enslave us? I trust that those who feel called to live this way will do so out of a sincere desire to remove obstacles and influences that are prideful. My prayer is that they will still remain connected to people because we are called (all of us who love the Lord) to Love God and to love others.

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