Simplicity is hard. In life, in faith, in money, in love . . . it’s just hard. And about the time you think you have it figured out, life throws you curveballs. A child is born. A transmission explodes. A job ends. A degree program starts. A board meeting goes sideways. Holy Week happens. And so it goes. Say it with me now: simplicity is hard.
I used to think that my wife, Brit, and I were good at simplicity. We lived simply, in a 200-square-foot trailer that we remodeled ourselves. We ate simply: real food, mostly plants. We tried to work simply, but if we’re honest, we can admit that part never actually happened. Then we got chickens, and then more chickens. And I got a new job, which I love. And Brit went back to school, which she is trying to love. And we bought a house—four days before before Holy Week because sometimes we are just that terrible at simplicity.
Simplicity is hard. It’s hard to budget time and money and energy and faithfulness all at once. It’s hard to be a husband and a pastor and a professor and a chaplain and a mentor and a son and a grandson and an uncle and a godfather and a neighbor and a housemate and a friend all at once. And some days I am uniquely terrible at even wanting to try.
Simplicity is hard. And I think sometimes it’s hardest for pastors. Sometimes it’s hard to write sermons, lessons, or lectures every week. Sometimes it’s hard to pray and meditate every day. Sometimes it’s hard to get up early to pray with a congregant before surgery, or stay up late with a grieving student, or attend meeting after meeting after meeting. Let’s be honest: meetings are the worst.
But the promise of God to us often-weary servants—those of us who are the overworked, overstimulated and undercaffeinated pastors, professors, parents, and more—is this: God is with us. God is with us in our mess.
God is with us in our sleepy, pre-dawn mornings and congested school-drop-off lines and too-long lunch meetings when we spill coffee on our laptops. God is with us in our endless appointments and ever-changing soccer practice times and the days we show up at the wrong hospital. God is with us.
God is with us, and not because we have made ourselves so busy with the work of the kingdom but, rather, in spite of it.
God is with us, and not because we have made ourselves so busy with the work of the kingdom but, rather, in spite of it. God is with us in our times of sleepy meditation and stolen moments of solitude and the prayer we whispered under our breath when we saw that person walking up to give us a piece of their mind. God is with us. And God calls us back to ourselves, back to simplicity, and back to right relationship with God and others, again and again and again.
In his book Simply Christian, N. T. Wright says it this way: “Made for spirituality, we wallow in introspection. Made for joy, we settle for pleasure. Made for justice, we clamor for vengeance. Made for relationship, we insist on our own way. Made for beauty, we are satisfied with sentiment.” There will never be a shortage of things, in life or in ministry, to sidetrack, frustrate, or consume us. “But new creation has already begun. The sun has begun to rise. Christians are called to leave behind, in the tomb of Jesus Christ, all that belongs to the brokenness and incompleteness of the present world. . . That, quite simply, is what it means to be Christian: to follow Jesus Christ into the new world, God’s new world, which he has thrown open before us.”
And so God in Christ calls us to simplicity. To simply pastor, simply parent, simply teach—and trust that the Spirit is at work in our best efforts. To simply trust, simply live, simply love—and believe that God will still meet us when we fall short, every single day.
God is with us. Thanks be to God!