In the season of Lent, we remember that simplicity is a rather complicated process. Lent invites us to focus on the bare essentials of our faith, where we are able to let go of that which is nonessential. In letting go, we are able to simplify our days, to unclutter our minds, and to focus on our faith at the center of our lives. Practicing simplicity enables us to see more, as we focus on less, remembering that the faithfulness of God is at the center, but this is a complicated process. There are always competing interests and demanding concerns, compelling us towards other directions, but the practice of simplicity can lead us towards the faithfulness of God.
A simple life that is focused on our faith can become complicated because it is not always straightforward. Faith is simple, but it is not always straightforward. It is simple because it is focused on less. It is not straightforward because we are not always sure how to proceed.
At the heart of our faith is the mercy of God. A simple life of faith holds the mercy of God at the center of our lives, but it is complicated because we are not always sure how to proceed from mercy and with mercy. Our prayer remains that the condition of our lives continues to become the state out of which mercy is possible. But the lingering question remains how?
An odd place to begin is our closets, for they call us to an uncluttered mind and an unhindered soul. The dimensions of a closet cannot be changed. No matter how many shelves, how many cubbyholes, or how many configurations we create, the dimensions of a closet will remain the same. We finally reach a point where the only answer to a cluttered closet is less. We have to reduce, disregard, and cutback. The only way to be able to focus on what is in the closet is to be able to see everything in it, but the practice of cutting back is a strange approach to faith.
In order to keep our faith and the mercy of God at the center of our lives, we have to unclutter our minds and to reduce the concerns of our souls. We have to focus on less, so that we can see more. With less crowding the space of our souls, we are better able to focus on the mercy of God. This is a daunting task, for when we face some of the concerns around us, they feel insurmountable. The situations of poverty, violence, and prejudice are overwhelming. The concerns of families, businesses, and people are heart wrenching.
We are overwhelmed with the weight of each aspect of those concerns, so how do we proceed from mercy and with mercy? In a recent lecture by Dr. Miroslav Volf at Mercer University, I was reminded of the simple, focused ethic of Jesus. In discussing the complicated dynamics of conflict and reconciliation, Volf said, "Do not compromise on the Golden Rule." It is one way to proceed with simplicity, focusing on less by not compromising the Golden Rule. It is one simple way to proceed from mercy and with mercy, even when it is not straightforward.
We begin by putting ourselves in someone else's shoes because that is the only way to, "Do to others as you would have them do to you" (Luke 6.31). Then we try not to compromise on the Golden Rule. I know that it is a rather simple way to approach the gravest concerns of our lives. It may not be the answer to our most complicated questions and problems, but it is one place to begin. With less to consider, hopefully, the more we will be able to proceed from mercy and with mercy, keeping the faithfulness of God at the center of our lives.