for the next month or so our community will be endeavoring together to practice the discipline of simplicity. we've decided to strive together toward the Lord through the practice of one additional spiritual discipline or practice, along with our regular practices of prayer, bible study, and community meals.
starting with simplicity is a bit of a challenge, because it is easy to turn into an abstraction if left without examples but can easily become legalistic if you try to establish concrete actions on a regular basis. there are also many ways that one can seek to pursue simplicity. it becomes difficult because simplicity is a discipline that has both inward and outward implications. richard foster describes it as “an inward reality that results in a changed lifestyle,” emphasizing that it must begin inwardly and express itself outwardly. perhaps this chart is helpful (though i'm not sure i like the use of the word "offbalance"):
so how do we, as a community, seek to pursue inward simplicity first and then outward simplicity--especially in a collective and concrete way? well we talked a little about pursuing inward simplicity individually, but then thought it would be best as a group to pursue the outward things together that we all already had a bit of an inward reality towards. after several options we decided that a helpful way to practice simplicity would be in area of technology. technology can certainly be a blessing in a lot of ways, but it also has the ability to suck away our time and constantly take our focus away from the things we really need to be devoted to. and that is the heart of simplicty--to be singularly devoted to the Lord and his life for us.
so our collective idea was to spend one night a week removing ourselves from technology--an "amish night" if you will, as it has been deemed. we even refrained from turning on the lights, resorting to candles instead. we did keep the heat on, considering the weather and that we are ill-equiped to light fires in the church with no wood-burning stoves (though if someone has an extra we'd love to put one in our great room!). for dinner we ate red beans and rice, and afterwards we spent much of the evening praying in the chapel--which we usually do on monday nights already.
last night was the first, so i am a little hesitant to come to any conclusions. i'm not so sure that the practice led me to a greater pursuit of inward simplicity and less of a desire to engage with technology (which ironically i'm now writing about on my computer). it was good not to deal with technology for the evening--but then did i just have to catch up today on the things i missed last night? would it be more helpful to commit to practice this discipline on a larger scale? what about an amish week? unfortunately there are things like school that require some degree of technology--but certainly those things could be accounted for. are we selling ourselves too short? trying too little?
well those are things we will discuss as a community, and perhaps make adjustments. but also we need to pursue things individually. i am trying to cultivate silence today as a means of pursuing inward simplicity--though i can't say it's going all that well though so far. what are some ways you think simplicity needs to be pursued, in our culture and in your life? is simplicity something you think about ever?
i'd be interested to hear your thoughts if anyone would like to share. thanks.