My brain is garbled. I am having a hard time thinking clearly about anything. I’ve lost my center. I’ve failed with flair. These past two weeks have been a living failure for me, I’ve forgotten the things that keep me centered and sane. I let stress at work overcome me, as well as the boredom of tedious tasks. I’ve filled my schedule so full that my faith and my health have been relegated to the sidelines. I’ve neglected my daily time with God, and only pray when it strikes me as convenient or necessary. I haven’t been making it to the pool or the gym. And rather than living my life surrounded by the concept of simplicity and having enough, I’ve fallen into the cultural trend of wanting more—lusting after desires that in the end reflect nothing on the state of my soul, the wellness of my being, or a healthy connection to community. Push harder, go faster, commit more…these are the phrases that have been driving me the past weeks. But there have also been these phrases—relax, you deserve it; it’s not my responsibility. I’ve relaxed, knowing that our culture touts relaxation as one of the keys to health. But what is relaxation? I’m fairly certain that it’s not simply watching hours of Netflix on end and munching on my weight in marshmallows or crackers with bean dip. I think that our culture has lost track of what true relaxation is.
Today, for the first time in two weeks, I cracked the book I was reading on stability and spiritual development. I was having a hard time focusing on the words. My mind darted as the words tried to slow it down, tried to make it listen. But listening is not what my mind wanted. My mind wanted to act. So much to do, so much action. But then a paragraph caught my eye in light of the particularly busy week I’ve had, and the way in which I have spent my small amount of relaxation time.
Rest is not a couch where we kick back in front of the TV….Rather; it is a place where we learn the rhythms of the work we were made for from the One who made us. Rest is coming home to the way of life that fits, learning to inhabit the story of God’s people and practice the craft of life with God wherever we are. p61 — The Wisdom of Simplicity in a Mobile Culture by Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove
Those words jolted me back to center. It made me take a look at the past two week in dismay, but also look forward in hope. The stressors of the world, the desires of the flesh, they are not what matter. It is my role as a member of my community that makes up the family of God, the creation of God.
The traditional practices of Christian faith—prayer, fasting, Scripture reading, works of mercy, hospitality—all these are things that have fallen off my radar. If they have made an appearance, selfishness is the root from which they have grown. It’s been months since meditation has been a part of my life, but now I am beginning to see its purpose—to keep me grounded in the things that matter, to enable me to live in such a way that I live in simplicity and am content with enough.
As someone who loves the culinary arts, I suppose that the easiest way for me to illustrate the point of enough is with food. People who are immersed in the food culture are always looking forward to the next meal, the next experience of taste, texture, balance, and presentation. They look forward to it with a zealousness that is idolatry in its truest form—gluttony in its truest form. It is an idolatry I struggle with daily. The fact that our culture has made the worship of food permissible makes it that much harder. The fact that the church also endorses it, citing scripture in regards to fellowship, has lead to a gluttonous church where many members forget that when we gather together to break bread, it does not have to be a complex task. Notice that scripture chooses on of the simplest foods as a picture of sharing in hospitality—bread. It is not fancy deserts, pates, or piles of food—it is simple. It is enough. In fact, the first century church was berated for their gluttonous ways, and the church in this century is no better.
But I digress. My point was, that as a foodie, when I am out of sync with Him who made me, I am always looking forward to my next meal, my next snack. I want it to be luxurious—filled with sugar, salt and fat—be it chocolate chip cookies or an elk burger and sweet potato fries. But here’s the thing—concept of simplicity and enough say that I am going well beyond the realm of enough. Not every meal has to be the best meal ever. We eat three times a day. If having our best meal at every meal is our goal, we doom ourselves to a self-indulgent life leading to obesity and physical malaise. An indulgent meal should be a treat, not the norm. It is not our right to indulge while others go without. The concept of enough suggests eating simpler foods—whole grains, legumes, fruit, vegetables. Fancy preparation is not required. If your lunch consists of black bean soup and a side salad, that is enough. If you’re daily going out and looking for a large plate of pasta drenched in Alfredo sauce and topped with sautéed shrimp, that is too much.
The norm needs to be to aim for enough. The norm needs to be simplicity. Without that norm, we relegate ourselves to spiritual, physical, and mental illness. We need our lives to be centred around something more than a product we consume. When our lives become about consumption and materialism, we will fail with flair in all the parts of life that matter. As I was jolted back to centre, I hope this post gives you a jolt as well. Have you lost your centre? Where have you found your new centre? And what will you do to get back to where you need to be?