Ain’t that the truth, Confucius. Ain’t that the truth…
Perhaps it may not ring true to you, but it does to me. I have a tendency to make a mess of things; to make things more complicated than they need to be.
Spending that week in Costa Rica, my heart, my spirit, my soul felt a pull towards a life of simplicity.
Please understand that I’m fully aware that I’m romanticizing a lot about a life in Tamarindo. But I’d wonder what my life would be like if I just left everything behind and relocated to Tamarindo, open a small business that helps me connect with people — both locals and tourists; teach my boy to hustle souvenirs.
But that’s a dream… a dream that may not last the beatings of the soul that come from everyday life
But what does it mean to be happy?
And perhaps that’s why a lot of us get in trouble.
Instead of pursuing joy we pursue happiness.
Happiness is based on circumstance; context; situation; season.
Joy is a state of being; a state of mind.
Which is why Paul does not implore us to be happy in all circumstances but to rejoice in all circumstances.
Happiness for a season may involve indulging in everything your heart desires; to buy and stock up and buy more new things… But happiness is always fleeting because situations and circumstances always change.
But, I think I’m learning the less I have, the more content I am. I mean, Mo’ money, Mo’ problems right? (Wish I could personally testify to that — but I’ll take Ma$e and Biggie’s word for it)
What does it look like to pursue a life of contentment?
I can’t help but to think that a simple life is a content life is a good life is a worthy life.
But the #StruggleisReal.
Clutter is life. Because we confuse want with need. Because storage units are cheap and affordable. Because we think we really need that new thing. Because we really think that one of these days, we actually might need that thing that hasn’t been used for a while.
So we have… things. And lots of things. As if things define our identity.
Granted, a simple life isn’t limited to things and mammon. It’s a state of mind. It’s more about behavior than anything else.
For me, freedom seemingly will stem from simplifying. They seem to go together like rice and kimchi. Or peanut butter and jelly. Or Uggs, Pumpkin Spice Latte, and yoga pants.
Which brings me to my vocation and church and ministry.
I have a feeling in the pit of my stomach that we over complicate everything when it comes to faith, church, and Jesus.
It’s absolutely true: following Jesus is simple; it’s just not easy.
Do justice; love mercy; walk humbly with God. Or.
Love God. Love neighbors.
Straightforward. Simple. Not easy, but simple.
But the problem comes when we start our sentence with “But…”
Or we start implementing processes and steps. And denominational laws/rules. More often than not, bureaucracy can be the hindrance to ministry — making things more complex than it may need to be.
Jesus’ invitation to “follow me” was simply that. I don’t remember the requirement to receive a masters degree in divinity; I don’t recall the need to say the Sinner’s Prayer; to memorize scripture; to fill out paperwork of how many professions of faith and baptisms you had in the calendar year…
Simplicity in ministry is scary too.
Because as you think about how to make a church simple, you have to begin a process of pruning. What should we eliminate? What can we eliminate?
But then we start asking, well what about? (what about the men’s ministry that hasn’t been active for 20 years? We need to keep around just incase one of these men want to start it up again.
Well, what about the Tuesday morning prayer meeting where only 3 people attend and we spend most of the time gossiping about the happenings of our communities than spend any actual time praying?
Well, what about community garden that we started in the 70’s and haven’t tended it for the past decade? We can’t just stop doing it.
Well, what about the meetings that might take place in that room? We can’t just let someone from the community use because there might come a day that we’ll need to use. Never mind the fact that this room hasn’t been used on a weekday for 15 years.)
When we start asking “well what about ____?” we end up keeping more stuff around than simplifying. And I speak from experience. We start discussing unnecessary sh** that just frustrates the hell out of me.
We can’t get rid of the fake flowers that makes the campus look awkward because that’s someone’s ministry.
We can’t get rid of the chairs that are no longer being used because they’re falling apart and dangerous for people to sit on because the Smiths, whose family haven’t been part of our church for 2o years, donated them in the 60’s.
We can’t get rid of the rocking chairs because the old folks won’t have a place to sit.
Well what about and we can’t go together like Uggs — oh, I already made that “joke.”*
When talking about simplifying with a declining church, more often than not, you walk away with more sacred cows than you began with; more untouchables. We end up becoming hoarders of past relics. We become preservers of Yesterday. We become champions for the status quo.
Honoring the past is a necessary thing. We need to celebrate the stones that former saints laid.
But when we can’t move forward because we’d rather live in the past — that’s when it becomes unhealthy. Because,
We trust our past more than we trust God.
We trust our routine and our system more than we trust God.
We have more faith in the status quo than we do in God.
and we wonder…
here is the church
here is the steeple
open the doors
… but wait where are all the people?
Uh… Clearly you can sense that I have some… feelings when it comes to this topic.
There’s this tension that is welling up within me when it comes to church — and I don’t know where this tension will take me. I’m just praying that I’ll have the courage to go where God is leading — regardless of where that path may lead me.
This draw… gravitational pull towards simplicity, I feel, will have a drastic impact on my life and my calling.
But without tension; without wrestling; without struggling — then are we really living?
Israel means you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.
The people of Israel are born out of struggle. Our faith story is born of our struggle.
But struggle is life affirming.
If you ain’t struggling, well, you ain’t living.
So we struggle because we have life; because we have hope.
Hope is a function of struggle.
So I welcome this tension and struggle and wrestling to work things out with God and with where God is leading me, because it will lead to life.
Yet, Israel also can mean: God strives/God prevails. Which God will. In spite of/despite me. So I enter this tension, knowing that God will prevail.
So, let’s see where God is leading me in this season of life.
Faith is an adventure. Let’s go exploring.
*my jokes are funny…