January: Embrace Simplicity

Wait, January is over already?

That happened fast.

My headline for January was Embrace Simplicity.

The subtext: Read more. Read the Word. Have less. Sleep early. Take things slow. Give thanks for life’s simple pleasures.

In the end, it didn’t happen as I had anticipated. I had viral syndrome for almost a week in the middle of the month, and it took me another week to feel truly well again afterwards. It was a kind of simplicity which I hadn’t expected, desired, or asked for! It forced me to be vulnerable, to allow others to take charge, and to acknowledge my total lack of control, ultimately, over my life and the lives of those around me. What a way to re-learn that lesson.

Pursuing simplicity had its drawbacks. I deliberately reduced our social schedule, and I got lonely. I wanted simple evenings, reading and getting extra sleep by going to bed early, and I got frustrated that chores and admin and life still had to happen and still got in the way of those things.

And this simplicity, it also got me thinking. And then battling with God. And then confronting idols. And still battling.

Simplicity got me thinking because, in truth, it didn’t look particularly different to normality. Days at home, preschool runs, quiet evenings – it was all quite run-of-the-mill. And I got to wondering: is this all?

Yes, this work the Lord’s given me as a mum, it is holy work. Yes, it has been my choice, my conscious choice, to stay home with my children while they are small. Yes, as a family we decided it was important for them to be cared for and raised by their parents rather than placed in a nursery. Yes, it could have been different. Yes, I want to help my children achieve their dreams and ambitions. Yes, I want to ensure that they have every opportunity to know God and take their place as vital members of society. Yes, to all of these.

But is this all?

What about my dreams? What about my talents, my aspirations? Where do they fit into the picture?

The simplicity I embraced and sought opened me up to a feeling of dissatisfaction. And it was a dangerous place to be.

The questions I was asking, they weren’t wrong. I am a person. I have gifts, abilities, dreams. I am more than a mum. The problem was that a demon of discontentment took a seat on my shoulder, and made me crave something other than God.

I started to believe that something other than God could fulfil my deepest longings, and give me true security and joy.

Thankfully, God provided a corrective influence through a sermon I heard at our church on Isaiah 7. When Ahaz is under pressure, he looks to men and the things of men for his security. He doesn’t trust in the God who made him and who directs every little thing.

Every little thing.

It’s all under his command. All the moments, all the dreams, all the challenges, all the disappointments, all the brokenness. He is there. Immanuel.

Not one moment of my life is outside of his sight. ‘All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.’ (The Bible, Psalm 139:16)

Yet… that idol of discontentment – or was it pride, or ambition, or desiring man’s approval or praise, or all of those? – it has taken root. The corrective message is in my head, but my heart is not so easily changed. But I do know: I need to break this idol, before it breaks me.

My dreams, my talents, my ambitions, they aren’t wrong, when they remain in their rightful place. All that I achieve in this life could be gone in an instant. Only God will remain.

So while I continue on, considering how and when and where to fit in those dreams and use those gifts, the pursuit of them is to happen always in the context of the pursuit of God, who is ‘over all and through all and in all.’ (The Bible, Ephesians 4:6b).

Next month: Engage People (Not Screens). This will be a challenge to me. Two days in and I have removed Instagram and Twitter from my smartphone, so I can only access them (along with the news and Facebook) on my desktop – which I will try to keep switched off during the daytimes. I will report back!