By reflection, I do not mean revisiting the past, so you do not have to fear negative memories. By reflection I merely mean appreciating the moment, the day or night, the time in which you exist. I have thanked the Lord, both today and yesterday, for the amazing weather we have been experiencing in my area. Humidity has been low, a nice breeze has blown through my windows, and there has been no need of a noisy air conditioner. I have been able to sit outside, to enjoy time, and express to God my appreciation for grace, mercy, forgiveness, a great family, my church, my friends, my job, my truck, my house, all that God has graciously allowed me to enjoy.
But the silence is what I have treasured the most during this time. Even now, as I write this on Tuesday evening, there is a gentle breeze blowing through my windows, as curtains fly softly back and forth, and the frogs and the crickets and the birds talk to each other, or sing their songs, or pray their prayers to their Maker. These are the only sounds I hear and they are a gift of God. There is no traffic, no fussing, no arguing, no cussing, no great sobbing, no loud machines, no planes, no sirens, no guns, no screams for help -- just nature at its best. I suppose by "silence," then, I really mean the absence of strife or industry or unnatural sounds.
This peace, this utter serenity, is priceless. Tourists who visit my small town often ask me where I vacation in the winter. I tell them that I do not have to vacation. Where I live is my vacation, my peace, my get-away. I would not trade this place, this time that I treasure, for any other place short of heaven itself. This quiet and peaceful place has taught me how to appreciate and highly value the discipline of reflective and contemplative silence -- this wealth of simplicity.
I hope you have a space, a slice of reality, where you can be quiet, reflective, and appreciative to the Lord for God's goodness, grace, mercy and compassion. I would not trade this simplicity for all the money in the world, not for fame, not for royalty. That would be like trading my soul for mud. Richard J. Foster teaches us that simplicity is freedom, that it brings joy and balance,1 and he is spot on. He then quotes Solomon, who writes, "See, this alone I found: God made human beings straightforward [or simple (JB), upright, pleasing], but they search for many complications." (Ecclesiastes 7:29 CEB) The time that I have left on earth will not be spent searching for complications, drama, trouble, arguments, debates, strife or the like. I live intentionally.
You see, none of us should live accidentally, or carelessly. Foster writes: "The Christian Discipline of simplicity is an inward reality that results in an outward life-style. Both the inward and the outward aspects of simplicity are essential. We deceive ourselves if we believe we can possess the inward reality without its having a profound effect on how we live." 2 You may think that you cannot live without your Facebook contacts, or your Twitter updates, but I promise you that a simpler way of living is not only a better way to live but an immensely rewarding, even addicting, way to live. You may initially fear simplicity but I beg you to disregard that fear.
When one reads of simplicity he or she may imagine an Amish lifestyle or, perhaps, that of a monk. Those are exaggerated examples of living simply. While a Kardashian lifestyle is a good example of what simplicity is not, we need a good example, so as to avoid misrepresentation. Can one who is living a simple life maintain a Facebook account? Yes, but he or she does not allow Facebook to govern one's time, meaning that Facebook is not to maintain you. I have known a few very godly men and women on Facebook who know how to manage their time and their content without the same managing them. Sadly, however, too many in our culture lack "the inward reality and the outward life-style of simplicity." 3 This we see examples of on Facebook, Twitter, TMZ and other social outlets. With the click of a switch -- TV, PC, Smartphone -- a million calls for your time and attention compete every second of every day of every month of every year.
What you may not yet realize is that you are in control of those calls for your attention. You do not know how much time you have left. People every day die at 23 years old, or 38 years old, or 52 years old or 67 years old. Do you really want your time, your energy, your very soul to be manipulated by fickle fads and contrary opinions and fashion demands and schemes and drama and stress and heartache and rejection? You, truly, do not need that $65,000 car or that $2,000 phone or that $800,000 house or that $7,000 watch or that $4,000 dress or that $6,000 piece of jewelry. You really can live simply, peaceably, and be inwardly happy, content, and at peace -- at peace within yourself, with others, and with God by grace through faith in Christ.
There have been countless people who had it all -- money, boats, cars, houses, fashion, jewelry, whatever they wanted -- and were inwardly miserable. That is, simply, because material objects cannot make us happy and grant us inward peace and contentment. St Paul writes: "If we have food and clothing then we will be content with that." (1 Tim. 6:8) Chasing after more than what is basic for our sustenance is like chasing the wind. My ultimate hope for you, friend, is that you receive the gift of God, Jesus Christ Himself, and experience God's saving presence and rich relationship. After that, my hope is that you value the time you have in this existence, and discover the unfathomable reward of reflective silence within a context of simplicity.
1 Richard J. Foster, Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth (New York: HarperOne, 1998), 79.
3 Ibid., 80.
This post was written by William Birch