People don’t consider me the poster child for the simple life. With five small children underfoot, I have been told that I have my hands full. A bustling household may seem to be at odds with simple living, but it is not. Children make noise, cost money, and wake in the middle of the night. They are hard work if you are going to raise them right, which means raising them yourself. Yet I can think of no sweeter means of enjoying the simple, good things in life than alongside God’s gift of children.
A Simple Life
A simple life is a single-focused life. It is one that glorifies God, and children are not obstacles to doing that. Sure, it’s a little loud at times, but above the din I can still make out God’s clarion call to raise our children in the fear and admonition of the Lord. We must purge the things that encumber us, so that the goal is not obscured. Our family’s aim is a straightforward one—to glorify God with our lives. Children only add to the pleasure of living life to the glory of God.
Now I know it’s easy for us to lose perspective while we are waist-high in laundry, and so in this space, I will explain two ways our family purposes to avoid getting lost in the clamor. You don’t have to go crazy. Things happen and milk spills, but commotion happens whether or not you have children. Each person who endeavors to live a God-honoring life has a choice: the narrow way, or the wide way; the way of the cross, or the way of the culture; the simple way, or the encumbered way. Each one of us chooses each day whom to serve; your own laundry pile is there, no matter how you choose.
The first way our family is learning to walk a narrower path is by decluttering—discarding those things that hinder our mission to glorify God. The second way is by choosing well—purposely embracing the things that help us to glorify God. We rid ourselves of the frivolous things, so that our arms are not too weak to carry the essentials.
Be Simple: Declutter
E.F. Schumacher said, “Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius—and a lot of courage—to move in the opposite direction.” In other words, simplicity doesn’t just happen; we default to the complex. As our family learns to liberate our lives from litter, we’ve chosen to purge the things that encumber, not those things that have lasting value. This seems obvious. The difficulty lies in differentiating between what matters and what doesn’t.
One simple test is to ask, “When I get to heaven, what will I bring along with me?” Children are eternal; material goods are not. Instead of attributing complexity in life to children, taking a good look at life’s clutter would be a better way to spend our time.
Clutter is the noise of life, and it keeps us from doing the will of God. Recreational shopping can keep us from the simple life, tempting us to spend beyond our means. Leaving home each evening makes it difficult to linger around the dinner table. Swallowing a daily mass media diet leaves us too full of the world’s candy to enjoy the meat of God’s Word. These things are temporal, and don’t deserve our attention.
Be Simple: Choose Well
When my husband and I set out to simplify our lives, it was more from necessity than from philosophical choice. We had a goal, and we weren’t able to get there the way we were swimming. We’re just learning how to swim upstream, and the current is a strong one. But now that we have taken carefully considered steps toward simplifying, we are persuaded that glorifying God is more within our reach when the noise of life is turned down. And now that another season is upon us, in a few days he and I will sit down together to plan, strategize, and reevaluate the course our household is on.
Some of the questions that we will ask and answer are: Are we on track? What is working? What isn’t working? Why isn’t it working? What can we do to make it work? Does it need to work, or can we eliminate it? What’s essential, and what’s not? This is one way we strive to choose well, to live our lives intentionally.
To give one example, we run our household on a loose routine; not because we’ve extrapolated some Bible verse to support the way we want to do things, but because routine answers the question, “What’s next?” It helps us to live life purposefully. Our weekdays have a specific flow of schoolwork, chores, and family time each evening. The children know that on Saturday we tackle house projects, and after that we play. And they especially look forward to Sunday, when we worship with our church family.
When we plan, the first choices we make are the ones that we believe God is asking us to make. We will fill our lives, but with what? Many of our choices follow from knowing that God wants us to train up our children in the way that they should go. Since that isn’t something that happens by chance, we have to deliberately set aside time for this training. One way we set out to obey this command is by including Scripture reading in our plans for the day.
We still sometimes struggle with doing life backward, but we are getting better at rearranging our priorities. It is common for people to look at their commitments, and then try to fit in the things that matter. We’ve learned that the better way is to make sure your commitments are the things that matter. Other good things can be added as room is found to fit them in.
We should not be surprised that we raise up worldly children if we’ve raised them the world’s way—in a causal manner, without care, without forethought. God says in effect, “Go this way!” There is a path, and He will help us to walk it if we will ask Him.
Children are enormous wealth in God’s economy. Children are not a hindrance to living a simple, fulfilling life; they are the stuff of life that matters. To embrace this truth, Christians should rid their lives of the things that hinder them from glorifying God, and they should take thoughtful steps to choose just those things that help them to reach that goal. Sometimes we find Biblical precedent that is obvious, and sometimes we ask for wisdom as we apply His Word. In each case, though, it is important that we not just think, but think biblically. And when we think biblically, we find that the only fitting conclusion is to simplify, in order that God might be glorified.
(editing by Rick Saenz)