You want a simpler life? Let's talk about the spiritual practice of simplicity. But first take time to process your thoughts:
- Is your inner guilt-monger already harping on you about your crowded schedule and hyper-material lifestyle?
- Is your inner coach already finding a solution—if you could just downsize or move to Amish country or stop buying retail—for peace to come?
Neither of these approaches will work. Applying a life-changing practice like simplicity doesn't happen quickly—it's more of a slow shift. And it always begins from the inside-out.
Without that inner processing, everything—including this article—becomes more clutter in your life. But imagine if you spent a few minutes each day for two months listening to what God wants to say to you about simplicity?
In his book The Blue Parakeet, author Scot McKnight describes the word listening in Scripture as having three levels: attention, absorption, and action. Using that model, let's listen—to Scripture, tradition, and the voice of the Holy Spirit—so that we might experience that slow shift in our beliefs about the simple life.
Here we'll take it by weeks. But for more daily assistance and simplicity prompts, check out our daily offering here.
Weeks 1-2: Attention
Two goals set the attention stage: listen to your own life and listen to what the Bible says about possessions. You may want to journal as you process. The goal of these two weeks is to formulate answers to two questions. This may sound elementary, but we need to think hard to find answers to spiritual questions. So here we go!
Q1: What do I currently believe about simplicity?
Here are some helpful prompts:
- The aspects of my life that feel "cluttered" or "complicated" are …
- Simplicity sounds like a great idea, but …
- A description of a person who would practice simplicity is …
For example, simplicity gives me conflicting thoughts. One side of me knows simplicity spawns a peaceful heart that's available to love people in the moment. Another part of me thinks that having so much "open" time will be boring and I'll miss out on other ways to use my gifts. Simplicity isn't that easy!
Q2: What does God teach about simplicity?
Contributing writers in this issue cite several Scriptures as to what God teaches about simplicity.
As you read these Scriptures, what is God saying to you about simplicity? Keep your answers handy for next week.
Weeks 3-4: Absorption
McKnight describes this level of listening as "a heart fully absorbed in what God is saying." Here are some of my favorite ways to absorb God's truth:
- Memorize one of the Scriptures above and repeat it to yourself throughout your day.
- Write the Scriptures into a prayer to God.
- Daily journal your thoughts on one Scripture from above. Repeat the practice—with the same verses—the next week. Repetition is a powerful tool when trying to challenge deep-seated beliefs.
Weeks 5-6: Action
The heart of the Christian life is transformation. Your temptation may be to rush straight to action without any real heart change. This action will be short-lived and shallow as you return to habitual practices. But we've spent a full month reflecting on what we think about and what God teaches about simplicity. Now comes the crucial step:
What will you do about it?
If you've reflected on the Scriptures, I'd wager that you've already changed. Once we attend deeply to God's words, we can't help but see life differently. But this action step takes it even further. Use these journaling prompts as you listen to what God's teaching you about simplicity:
- To cultivate a simple and peaceful heart, I will …
- To create space to better love those around me, I will …
Pick action steps that are specific and measureable.
A vague action step: To cultivate a simple and peaceful heart, I will be less anxious about money.
A specific action step: To cultivate a simple and peaceful heart, I will pray a memorized verse every time I feel myself getting anxious about money. I will tell a supportive friend about my struggle and ask her to pray with me. I will report back to her in one month about how it's going.
Meditating on Scripture is never wasted time. Embrace what God is saying to you about your personal need for simplicity—and welcome the transformation!