Urban culture is currently captivated with a new phenomenon: simplicity. Many are de-cluttering their lives and embracing the capsule wardrobe, simple living, minimalism, clean lines, and bare surfaces.
We can learn a lot from this movement such as: how less is often more, how making space fosters creativity, and how simple living can reveal a rare depth of beauty.
I had a roommate in college, named Mandy, who encapsulated minimalism. Mandy kept a simple quilt on her bed, a few select clothes in her closet, and a photo of her sponsor child on the wall. She stored the obligatory stack of textbooks on a shelf, and from somewhere, a sewing machine would periodically appear on her desk to fashion a thoughtful gift. I was always amazed by how simply she lived, and how that evoked such beauty. Mandy was a clear thinker, a focused individual, an intentional friend, and consistently generous. She laughed easily but didn’t mince words. She kept her eyes keenly fixed on Christ and modelled how the spiritual discipline of simplicity bears the fruit of righteousness (or as I like to break it down) – right living. Mandy’s continued influence reminds me to pursue the most important things, which are often not tangible.
I recently moved from a spacious suite in the country into a small bedroom in the city. My ENTIRE life crammed into a bedroom! Now, for someone who prides herself on not having much, I suddenly realized how much excess I had acquired over the recent years. Buying things I “needed”, or truthfully, just plainly wanted. I was rudely awakened to this excess when suddenly my closet size was cut in half and my cupboard space was drastically (and I mean DRASTICALLY) decreased. While I sought to downsize, consolidate, pawn off, discard, organize, and donate, a fire started raging through Fort McMurray. Once more, I was reminded of how futile acquiring possessions is. In an instant, it can ALL be gone. All that online shopping, deal hunting, rearranging, collecting, sorting, stuffing, and displaying. Gone. When my tangibles are threatened, what am I left holding onto? Are the treasures in my life flammable or fireproof? The quality of our intangibles is often the measure of the value of our lives.
While I strongly recommend the discipline of de-cluttering, I must also warn you: an empty space will seek to be filled. We weren’t created live in a vacuum. It’s good for us to fill our lives with good things. And so, when we get rid of one thing, another will seek to fill it. How often do I get rid of one thing only to buy the latest and greatest in its wake? If we are to truly embrace simplicity, we must fill that empty space with something of greater value. Much greater value.
We see a great example of this in the story of Micah. God indicts His chosen nation Israel with injustice and ingratitude towards Him after all He has done to care and provide for their needs. God had set this nation apart so that they could know Him and reveal His favour to the world. God had intentionally created space for this nation so that His presence could fill them. However, the Israelites instead sought to grab hold of what they thought would satisfy them. Their lives became marked by corruption, entitlement, and ingratitude – sound familiar?! And so, the nation had to be reminded again of what was truly valuable – to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with God. They were challenged to forsake their corrupt ways and make just decisions. They were to discard entitlement so they could truly love mercy. They had to exchange ingratitude for humble gratitude in order to know God’s presence.
In a world of corruption, entitlement and ingratitude, our call today is similar. What it will take is some honest reflection and realignment when we ask ourselves these three simple questions:
- Am I harming anyone with this purchase? To act justly, I must seek to reduce harm in all spheres of life. We must do the right thing even when it hurts or goes against the grain of our culture of convenience.
- Do what it takes to research and know what goes into the work behind what you wear and eat. (The JustUs website will be curating more resources on this topic – be sure to check the website frequently for more tips on this in the near future).
- How am I giving generously? To love mercy, we must extend ourselves for others. It involves wisely caring for people we think don’t deserve it – because none of us really do. And so, how can I take practical steps to live more generously?
- Do I really need this? To walk humbly begins with inviting God into our decisions. I have discovered that the more I invite God into my everyday, the more joy abounds in my life. I realize how much I have been given and no longer grab for more. This gratitude opens the way for deeper communion with God.
When we realize that we serve a God of abundance who cares for our needs, we choose carefully how our actions will impact others, we stop grabbing for things that hold no intangible value, and the result is a humble gratitude that connects us to others in meaningful ways.
Embrace the beauty of simplicity. Fill your life with justice, mercy, and humble gratitude, and you will find joy.