Simplicity and Freedom
Blog 5 December 1st, 2020
Simplicity is Freedom
Sometimes simplicity implies doing little or doing without. In reality simplicity frees us to do much of what has true meaning, and purpose accompanied by the gift of abundance. For like the meek in the beatitudes who will inherit the earth those who live a simple life, as those who seek to own and control little, find that they are free to enjoy and receive everything, while leaving an imprint on nothing. Thus, we find simplicity akin to humility.
Likewise, simplicity should not be thought of as inaction. In fact, simplicity frees us for action that has true impact, not by what we do but by who we are in Christ Jesus. This is action that carries great purpose and meaning because it is nonviolent and restorative in its movement. Thus, we find simplicity to be just.
Simplicity begins inwardly and then flows outwardly. Inward simplicity is to be centered in Christ Jesus who is the Truth that sets us free. Richard Foster writes on page 92 of his book titled, Freedom of Simplicity…
“What will set us free from this bondage to the ever-spiraling demands that are placed upon us? The answer is found in the grace of Christian simplicity.”
We do not have to look far in the history of Christianity to see that simplicity was paramount among those who truly impacted the world for glory of God. The desert Abba’s and Amma’s; Francis and Clare of Assisi, Ignatius of Loyola, John Wesley, Francis Asbury, Mother Teresa just to mention a few. The simple life centered on and united in Christ Jesus set these and countless others free to be who God called them to be.
The Contemplative life, at its core, is simple in that it wills one thing, which is to know and to be responsive to God’s presence and action within and around us. Not that we have nothing to do, but that all we do flows out of a free unhurried way of being, as those centered in Christ Jesus. Simplicity thus becomes a contemplative posture that opens the door to being drawn closer to union with God, by the grace of God, that we may be set free to live in and for God.
In its most pure form simplicity is the ruthless removal of all that is not God from our lives. It is a way that explores being undistracted by image, thought, or even concept, so we may simply listen to God. Silent wordless reflection that flows out spiritual practices such as mental prayer, centering prayer, prayer of silence, or lectio divina. These are often referred to as contemplative prayer.1 Evagrius Ponticus (345-399), also called Evagrius the Solitary, captures this simple way of knowing God with this well-known statement from his book Chapters on Prayer, chapter 61.
“If you are a theologian you pray, if you truly pray you are a theologian”
The Christian contemplative’s deepest desire is to grow, by the grace of God, into a way of being where we can simply be our true, naked, unadorned, pure selves with and in God, the One, who truly is, the great I AM. Simplicity is a necessary early component of the contemplative way of being as it is the first and necessary step to removing of all that would keep us from such a wondrous union with God.
God bless you all.
1 A good spiritual director can be of great help in developing this silent way of being.