No, I’m not talking about Paris and Nicole donning overalls and boots to work the farm; I’m referring to the desire lurking in my soul for simplicity in life. Life is fast, isn’t it? Time moves quickly and we’re always so busy. But it’s good to be busy, right? I mean, our society applauds us when we run around from place to place, when we “get things done,” when we finish our chores and get promoted and make lots of money. Being busy makes you look responsible and important. The more you do the more important you seem, yet the faster and more complex life becomes. Maybe business doesn’t dignify us; maybe it erodes at our humanity, making us more like productive machines and less human.
To the clamor of contemporary, consumerist, corporate American life, God speaks: “Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10, ESV). Stillness. Simplicity. Solitude and silence. These beautiful realities are lost in the maze of our modern autonomous, achievement based culture. Henry David Thoreau sought a simpler life near the solitude of Walden Pond, and many of his contemporaries mocked his experiment in simplicity. Those same contemporaries continued to live as slaves of their own desires, becoming cogs in a system of productivity and affluence, while Thoreau basked in the simple beauty of clear water, chirping birds, and enjoyed the satisfaction of finding his own food and living a quiet life of contemplation. This is a life near to worship (although Thoreau was a transcendentalist). What we can learn from him is the necessity of “being still.” Perhaps a respite from running around, performing tasks, doing errands, and constantly being on the move would help us connect with the beauty of stillness and the holiness of simplicity. Be still. Turn off the television, mute the iPod, and go for a walk. Converse with the one you love. Find satisfaction in the laughter of children rather than the cackle of gossips.
Of course, I’d slight Scripture and us if I didn’t also point us to the second half of the verse above: “Know that I am God.” In the midst of constant activity coupled with enduring frustration, we’d do well to hear those words: “Be still and know that I am God.” There is perhaps an organic connection between these two exhortations: to do the first is to come to know the second. Once we slow down, become still, find stillness and simplicity, then perhaps we will know something of the divine. God reveals his calming, centering power when we slow down enough to sense him. Maybe when we complain of never hearing from God, it’s not that he isn’t speaking, but that we aren’t listening. To our heart-pounding, mind-numbing, persistently panicked lives, God offers us the opportunity to simplify and know him. When we do, we find that his transcendence reshapes our present identity. We don’t find definition in what we do or how much we get done, but in the presence of a living God who invites us to know him. In that moment we begin to perceive life in a new way and our purpose not in quantity of work, but in quality of relationships—with God and one another.
So go to work. Keep your job. Continue to help the kids with homework and take the dog for a walk. But don’t neglect stillness, quiet, and simple contemplation. Don’t forget our created need for a Sabbath rest, in which we find roots in relationship with God: simplicity to unclutter our lives, and stillness to soothe our souls. Be still and take up God’s invitation to relationship with him.