This past Sunday we began a series covering 9 spiritual disciplines and Brent kicked us off focusing on the discipline of Simplicity. When we hear some of the things that Jesus says about it, it can be uncomfortable to say the least: “sell all your possessions and give to the poor” or “don’t worry about your life,” or “it’s easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God,” Being a part of the top 5% in the world seems to have some negative connotations in Jesus’ upside down Kingdom ethics.
Now, I’m not here to rag on riches, but what I am here to say is that there are powers both physical and spiritual vying for our every dollar, every minute and every thought that we leave up for grabs. Everything that makes up your life is based on a habit of conscious or unconscious decisions. Most of what we do is simply because it’s how we have done it forever; how we were raised or how we first interacted with something, or maybe a difficult situation in life has propelled our decisions.
The time we spend on our phones, the amount, regularity, or type of clothes that we buy and the type of food we eat. All of these things are a result of decisions we make, the more we make a decision the more unconscious it becomes, like as soon as I feel or hear anything close to a vibration or buzz I immediately reach for my phone.
Technology has been an area my wife Alicia and I have personally ventured to simplify and begin to make more conscious good decisions around so that as we practice those good habits they would become unconscious and natural.
There are two ways that Alicia and I have combated our poor unconscious decisions around technology.
First has to do with the attention grabbing, time wasting, ego boosting, confidence crushing machines: our phones. We felt overrun with every open space filled with scrolling or searching or texting. One thing that I often tell people is to make rules with your phone, specifically that your phone has a bed time and rest times. There are overwhelming stats that most people (myself included) predominantly ignore about the negative impact of the smart phone in many facets of our life. Where Alicia and I were being overwhelmed were in the in-between moments… in line at a store, waiting for someone at a coffee shop, and going to bed at night and waking up in the morning. All of our minutes were being gobbled up by our devices and over cluttering and complicating our lives. Our response was to purchase alarm clocks for our room and put a charging station down on the main floor of our house so that we would no longer bring our phones into our bedroom. In doing so we have now created space and time that are up for grabs. Now this space is filled with wandering thoughts, dreams, conversation, prayer and more sleep than I was getting before. And it causes me to come to grips with myself, the person beside me and God at the beginning and the end of the day, and sometimes that can be an intimidating thing, but a good thing. The conscious decision to leave our phones downstairs has become unconscious and I think of no other way to go to bed. I encourage you to simplify the life of you and your phone. One of the most significant steps is to give it a bed time, maybe when your kids go to bed, or when you go up to bed, make a conscious decision around your device.
The other way is with how Alicia and I would spend our free evenings. When we wouldn’t have any plans, or be tired from a long day and after our daughter was in bed, we had a default: Netflix. News. Movie. etc. We were finding that in our free time we weren’t choosing each other, others or even fun things by ourselves, but rather the entertainment of a screen, plunging ourselves into the stories and characters depicted for us and became lost in the story we were trying to write in our own lives.
We tried to limit our usage but determined that this was an area we needed to be more drastic.
So last summer, we cancelled our streaming services and moved our TV into a closet only to be used on special occasions. You could argue that the TV was making our lives simpler by offering us a one stop shop for all our entertainment needs, but what it was really doing was complicating our life to the point that we had no space to go any deeper in any area because our time was all accounted for. Maybe there is an area of your life that needs to be more drastic in your practice of simplicity. I encourage you to take the leap, share with someone what you’re thinking about doing and go for it. Whether it’s the clothes you buy, the food you eat, the money you spend, the entertainment you consume, more often than not the allure of simplicity in these things is a false front and we just need to peek behind to get the full story.
Sometimes you need less of something; sometimes you don’t need it at all. The problem is we never ask the question, or aren’t willing to take the answer seriously because we are hypnotized by the propaganda of more. I know what we’re all after: happiness. We just often don’t know how to find it in God, good friends & simple things. So we try to find it everywhere else and it’s a silent killer. We often speak boldly and specifically about porn, or talking to your neighbour about Jesus but seldom about the unnecessarily endless scrolling of Facebook marketplace, instagram feeds, or just getting that extra pair of jeans, just because it gives me a dopamine rush.
Make an effort this week to simplify your life for good. And if you’re having trouble thinking of something, ask, “what would Jesus do if He were me?” In my family situation, my financial situation, my job situation, etc. See what you think of and what He says.
Grace and Peace.