Cultivating a Simple Life

God doesn’t often compete with the white noise of our lives. 

We live in world of constant motion.  We insulate our lives with the hum of electronics and continually revolving to-do lists. 

And we are missing God as a result.

Do you remember what happened to Elijah just after he challenged the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel?  The bold prophet did his best impression of a Jackrabbit.  He ran and hid.  And according to 1 Kings 19, “Elijah was afraid and ran for his life.”  So, God came looking for him.

This is the part of the story that I love.  God confronts Elijah as he’s hiding in a cave and says, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.”

Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.

Then a voice said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

I love that story because it’s a vivid demonstration of reality.  If we want to experience life with God, we typically have to navigate through the white noise of life before we are positioned to hear the gentle whisper.

Maybe that’s why Jesus often sought lonely places to pray.  He was cutting through the white noise.

Maybe that’s why Jesus chose to live simply…free from many material possessions.  He was eliminating the source of distraction and building a life of margin.

I was talking to a friend recently about our American struggle to create and enjoy white space (margin) rather than white noise (clutter).  He mentioned that one of the most daunting hurdles to living generously – for him – comes in the form of margin.  He indicated, “I understand the amazing generosity of God.  I also understand that as a disciple, I should pattern my life after His generosity.  My problem is not that I don’t understand…it’s not a mental issue.  But, my problem is in the doing.  My deepest struggle is to simplify.  I need to do the hard work of reconsidering some of my past decisions in order to build in the margin that I need to live this way.”

In other words, he was beginning to wrestle through questions like these:

  • Where is my family investing in needs and where are we investing in wants?
  • Do I have enough time-margin to say “yes” to God if He asks of me?
  • Do I have enough money-margin to give when God prompts me to give?
  • How can I reduce the white noise of life to make more room for God?

When Mike Yankoski was asked what the most important spiritual practices are for Westerners, he said, “I would highlight silence, and I would highlight simplicity.”  He went on to note exactly what my friend has said…that one of the biggest struggles of Western Christians is to live life with margin and simplicity.

Margin and simplicity are not the end in themselves, but they are a means to an end.  Like Elijah, we may have to work our way through the noise to get to what matters.  We may have to intentionally bypass the stuff of life if we are ever going to hear from God and follow His ways.

So, if this is true…if we need more white space and less white noise…what’s one step we can take in that direction today?