The word simple has been on my mind a lot lately.
Sometimes life becomes too complicated.
We live in systems that thrive on noise and complication. Both good and bad things start competing for our attention, and they yell louder and louder all the while demanding more and more. Relationships, decision making, politics, etc… all of these things have the potential to become a cluttered mess in our hearts and minds. They tangle our emotions, drain our energy and in the end we are still left with a tangled mess. And we get so used to this being ‘the way things are’ that we come to accept this system. At the very least we throw up our arms in defeat because we feel that the battle is not worth fighting. We become so accustomed to this acceptance of a cluttered life that we start to complicate our faith as well.
So last month I went on vacation to Utah. Dantheman and his family and friends go hunting every year, and I decided to join in on this adventure. I wasn’t sure what I needed from this trip, but I remember the last time I went with them the Lord spoke very clearly to my heart, and I was craving that same clarity. A lot of people asked why I was going on the hunting trip when I wasn’t going to hunt. I didn’t have a great answer at the time, so I told people I was going for the fishing, the hiking, and to take pictures with my 35mm. I did all of those things, but that’s not why I went.
I went to get away.
There’s something about having to survive a vacation that is very appealing to me. The list of things that are important becomes very short; eat, sleep, stay warm, drink water. So my trip became very simple. I took care of those basic needs and added only a few things like reading my bible (I made it all the way through 2 Kings in a week), fishing, hiking, and photography to my ‘to-do’ list.
We had several things challenge those few necessities like windstorms, mud, snow and freezing temperatures, but looking back they were a huge blessing. With each of those basics being challenged you understand how important they are. Getting stuck out in the cold makes you appreciate warmth. A 5 mile hike through knee-deep snow up a mountain makes you appreciate a warm meal. Gusts of wind knocking over your tent inn the middle of the night make you understand the need for sleep.
And so for a week I lived here:
and I hiked here:
and I took pictures like this:
On the way back dantheman and I had a great conversation about the difficulty explaining to people how we get joy out of camping in a tent in below-freezing temperatures for a week. As we were talking I realized that the joy came from being in a place where only the most basic of needs matter. We lived as simply as we could for a whole week.
I had a heavy heart on the ride home. As much as I loved my feet being consistently warm, I knew that I was going back to a life where simplicity disappears under layers of busyness, noise, and clutter. More than that, I was frustrated that the Lord hadn’t spoken to me through nature like He had done before. And then it hit me,
My faith had become too complicated.
I needed to go back to take care of the basic necessities of faith and make my relationship with God more simple.
I ditched my bible study guide and simply continued to read it cover to cover with no timeline, or daily quotas.
I got rid of my list of prayer requests and started to simply tell God what is on my heart. And for those many instances where I can’t think of anything to say I simply listen.
I started spending less time giving advice and more time listening.
Most importantly, I reminded myself that God loves me. His love is not dependent on how ‘good’ of a youth minister I am. It doesn’t waiver based upon my mood. He doesn’t keep a score card of sins, or remind me of how many times I’ve failed. Those are complications that I have added to God’s love.
Our next sermon series at NC3 is titled, “All is Calm”. The graphic I created is a tangled mess of lights and decorations, because it’s something we can all probably identify with. We’ve all had that holiday season that gets way too busy with shopping, traveling, baking cookies, etc… and we have to take a step back and remind ourselves of the original purpose behind Christmas.
As for me, I look at that tangled orb of lights and decorations and see my own faith. Tangled, twisted up in serious need of some attention, and lot of unwinding. I”m reminded that somewhere in there is a simple faith. Not a project, but a thing of beauty.
One love, one heart.