Living Freely and Lightly

 “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

Matthew 11:28-30

Here, Jesus speaks to the heart of my reasons for adopting the simple lifestyle: to live freely and lightly. I have heard testimonials about how freeing it is to have less stuff.

Jesus also teaches us to live lightly. Jesus lived lightly. He probably didn’t have a closet full of shoes, and I’m pretty sure he didn’t have 15 handbags bogging him down. He was an itinerant preacher, living a simple lifestyle and teaching others to do the same.

To me, living lightly means living simply. Having what we need, but not consumed with the desire for more. It means to have a life with less stuff, less worry, and less burdened with debt.

Living lightly also means living sustainably. It means making preserving our environment  and our natural resources by using as little as possible. Living lightly is kind to others as well as to our planet.

Jesus also wants us to live freely: free from worry and free from the bondage of sin. But he also wants us to be free from materialism, debt, and avarice.

But in order to live freely and lightly, we have to keep company with Jesus (Matt 11:28). We have to be with him. It makes sense that we learn to live freely and lightly by being with someone who lives freely and lightly. Even more so when that person is Jesus.

So at this point in my journey toward simplicity, my focus is is on being with him. I have this great little devotional that I try to read morning and evening. It helps. I am also reading the bible in Greek and Hebrew as time allows. I do these things to keep company with Jesus. Hopefully he’ll teach me to live freely and lightly. Hopefully, my life will be changed forever.

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Re-Evaluation

In light of last week’s relapse into consumerism, I’ve decided to re-evaluate my reasons for adopting minimalist lifestyle, and I am re-evaluating my commitment. Do I really want to embrace minimalism? Am I really clear on why I should live simply? How can I prevent future relapses?

I did some reading (which I will discuss an upcoming post) about faith and simplicity. Some of the readings argue that simplicity starts within. Rather than focusing on things, our focus should be on God. Clearly, my focus has been on fashion and not on God. This is the first thing that needs to change.

The second thing that needs to change is this self-centeredness that drives me to want more and more and more. My focus is on me, and what I want. In the heat of the moment (while I’m in the stores), I’m not thinking about anything but me. I’m not even thinking about my future! I’m thinking about what will make me happy right now.

Action: Shift the focus to God, and stop thinking about myself so much.

 

My readings also argue that values play a big role in the minimalist lifestyle. The values that we hold drive our decisions. At this point, I’m not even sure what my values are.

Action: Take an honest inventory of my values. What do I believe about the world, our society, my life? Write it out in black and white.

 

Part of the reason the second action scares me so is that when I come face to face with my values, I know that some things will have to change. As long as I don’t have my values defined, I can remain in denial. Once I have my values in front of me, I have to commit to them, and to the lifestyle changes that are required in order to live by my values.

Maybe that’s what it all boils down to: the fact that I do not want to change. I’ve given mental assent to minimalism, but on the inside, nothing has changed. That’s why I keep relapsing.

Action: Ask God for help to make the changes that I need to.

 

These are the things I’ll be working on over the next several days. Where is your focus? Are you clear on your values? Are there things that need to change? I invite you to join me in this time of reflection. Hopefully, we will all be better for it.

Off The Wagon — Lesson Learned

After some reading and reflection, I adopted the minimalist lifestyle. I did well for about three weeks. Then, I had a small relapse. I bought books at a going-out-of-business sale at a bookstore. But I got back on track.

This past week, I had a major relapse. As a minimalist, I failed completely. I bought clothes and shoes. To be exact, I purchased four tank-tops, two sundresses, two pairs of sandals and one sunhat. I have a trip coming up soon, and all of these purchases will prove useful. AND I got some great deals. But was it worth it?

Is it worth the anxiety I feel over whether or not I should have spent the money? Is it worth the great effort to find a place to store my new items? Is it worth the physical space that these items will occupy? Is it worth the aesthetic effects of still more clutter in my life? Most importantly, is it worth the shame that I feel as a failed minimalist that fell off the wagon and purchased something?  Or somethings, in my case.

I realize that after thirty four years of consumerism, I can’t just jump into minimalism and expect to never relapse. It just hurts when it happens.

So now that the purchases have been made, I’ve learned a valuable lesson as a beginning minimalist. If you are a beginner, take heart. You may be able to learn from my relapse, and perhaps avoid a relapse of your own.

  • Consider carefully before purchasing. It is so easy to get caught up in great deals and bargain hunting that we fail to consider the true ramifications of making that purchase. Sometimes the best place for that box set of classical music is right there in the store.
  • Keep in mind that it’s not “just another thing.” There are many emotions that will be tied to that thing. Anxiety is tied to the purchases I made today. If I do not use these items to the fullest, then guilt will be associated as well. We purchase things. Things evoke emotions.
  • There is forgiveness. Falling off the wagon isn’t the end of the world. We can always try again tomorrow. The key is not to get into a cycle of self-loathing, which can lead to yet more purchases. Forgiveness is hard. Self-forgiveness is harder. But is must be done to give ourselves the freedom to try again.
  • Remember the victories. Don’t let the shame of one failure overshadow the many victories. There have been times when I resisted temptation. I resisted the urge to splurge, and I felt so good. I cannot allow this one failure to negate the victories that I have experienced.

The messages of more experienced minimalists ring true. I see the wisdom in their words. Things really do affect you mentally, spiritually, financially, and emotionally. There is freedom in having less. I gave up a little bit of that freedom today, but I learned a valuable lesson.

Tomorrow is another day. I will embark upon it as a minimalist. Only I will be a little wiser.

The Thing About Faithfulness

I’m not sure what it is, but I seem to be hearing about faithfulness a lot today. In church, the pastor talked about the challenge of faithfulness. I just read about living faithfully. What is the deal with faithfulness?

I know that God rewards the  faithful (Matthew 25: 21,23: “His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.”). Psalm 101:6 reads: “I will look with favor on the faithful in the land, that they may dwell with me; he who walks in the way that is blameless shall minister to me.” God definitely holds the faithful in high regard.

I know that God calls us to be faithful. In Revelation 2: 10, Jesus commands the church at Ephesus to be faithful even unto death. In return, he would give them the crown of life.

Faithfulness is also one of the nine fruits of the Spirit. When I think of faithfulness I think of loyalty. I think of being dependable. I think of consistency. I think of commitment.

The thing about faithfulness is that it’s so easy to let it fall by the wayside. It is not easy to be faithful in our work, our relationships, our fitness regimes, etc. Things happen (or they don’t happen), and it is so very easy to lose heart. It’s easy to pull back and disengage. That’s what the last servant did in the parable of the talents. Instead of investing his one talent, he disengaged: he buried it in the ground and went on about his business.

I think of the commitments in my life. I recently committed to simple living.  I want to be faithful to that commitment. The thing of it is, it’s so much easier not to.