Everyday Christian: why simple is better

“Solitude can be sought and found in the routine of the simple world, in which one can be alone in one’s heart.” Henri Nouwen, Encounters with Merton.

Is it just me – it probably is – but is life getting simpler? I am by nature an anxious person, and maybe the therapists who suggest adopted persons are more prone to insecurity have latched onto something in my case.

My experience of simplicity is growing as I let go of some of the things that kept me anxious. I don’t have to “prove” myself or compare myself to others. I can let go of that. I don’t have to worry about whether others will compare me to another set of others. They will. My job at Eternity, and the dark side of social media will make sure of that.

“Stick to one’s lane, don’t look across at others” was preached once by Pentecostal pastor Craig Groeschel. In other words, stop comparing yourself to others. Stick to the tasks you have been given.

Groeschel told of how you can read in John’s account of the resurrection, perhaps a little one-upmanship by “the disciple Jesus loved”.

Well, if that John had to work on the problem of comparing himself to others, this John can be happy to do the same.

It just may be that the embrace of simplicity comes about because there’re things that I can’t fix, as much as my maleness desires to.

An illness in the family that won’t get better. The conundrum of the property market. Knowing how a project I have put a chunk of my life in will fare. The puzzle of media – will journalism survive? And the list could be longer but I might get anxious writing it all down.

Just as benedictine monk Henri Nouwen has reached out to me in many crises, I find his counsel that I can be alone in my heart apposite and apostolic. It fits and it is a Biblical message.

Because to be alone in my heart is to take responsibility for my mental state. To know that as an individual I should take care – and make space for God to be present in my life. To have enough silence. To listen. Indeed, a quiet time.

To have enough silence to listen to others.

Simplicity includes quite complicated things I know, like sanctification – the great unfinished project. The effect of the Trinity drawing me in.

And no matter how complicated things seem to be, and are, these ultimate realities have a simple feel. The great unspoken doctrine of God’s condescension, of making things simple enough for me to think that I touch his truths, is at play.

And when I lift my eyes and ears back into the world, a universe of meaning awaits me.