Today’s post is part 7 of our Spiritual Disciplines of a Leader series. Previous posts in the series include Spiritual Disciplines of a Leader, Eliminating Hurry, Sabbath, Solitude,
Prayer, and Community.
As grapes approach maturity, the amount of time they remain on the vine is crucial to their sweetness. The more time they spend connected to their life source, the richer they become. As the branches are harvested, bunches of sweet, mature grapes are prepared for sale. In the midst of these bunches are nestled sour grapes—bitter from their lack of time connected to the vine. As these sour grapes are discovered, they are plucked from the bunches and separated from the mature fruit—it would be futile for the immature fruit to suck any remaining life from the branches that could feed into the sweet grapes.
Simplicity, in many ways, bears semblance to these grapes. When we over-commit, spending our days in meaningless cycles of “productivity” and constant noise, we lose the ability to be still and know that He is God. Our senses are too overcrowded to hear His voice. And, because we have too many grapes on our branches, we notice the bitter fruit of neglected commitments forming: Partially-finished projects, milquetoast relationships with students, and sporadic encounters with the living God. However, when we prune that which is not life-giving, necessary, or fruitful, we are left with succulent fruit untainted by half-grown intentions.
Simplicity offers the chance to prune that bitter fruit which is not life-giving, necessary, or fruitful. By intentionally saying no to “just one more thing”, by refusing to feed our technology addictions, by forgoing elaborate Young Life events in the pursuit of authentic connection with kids—we offer our finite attention and energy to what we have declared most worthy of these resources: Jesus and His people.
Both an internal and external practice, simplicity intentionally removes physical and mental distractions that broaden our focus and allow bitter fruit to suck life-giving resources away from the mature fruit. Simplicity calls us to an awareness of what we can prune, giving us not only the intentional time and energy to devote to what is most important but also the rest and refreshment required to do those things sustainably and
Simplicity as a spiritual discipline requires:
In order to let go of the noise in our lives—an overabundance of activities, relationships, or commitments—we must first admit that we cannot do it all. We cannot plan Club and Campaigners and do contact work and work a full-time job and have time with friends and family and care for our bodies through rest and exercise and allow time for hobbies and interests and (most importantly) cultivate a deep, fulfilling relationship with the Lord. We just can’t.
By embracing our human limitations as a gift, as an opportunity to focus on what is most important (and permission to let go of what is not), we become free. Free to say no. Free to approach our daily tasks with refreshment. Free to see God move in the ordinary spaces we might otherwise, be too busy to notice.
Pruning requires listening. In order to strip away that which constantly takes up our headspace, we must first ask the Lord what needs to go—and be willing to listen for the answer. It’s likely that the people closest to us will also have input of what we can prune.
Once we begin decluttering the landscapes of our daily lives, we’re also given more space to listen. Without the constant hum of “what should I be doing next?” we can instead offer friends and students the gift of
being heard. Still greater, we become more aware of God’s voice.
The process of uncomplicating our lives is constant. It’s easy to see blank spaces in schedules as opportunities for more commitments. Before we book each waking moment, we must humbly ask whether or not the busyness will help us achieve what we’ve identified as most important—loving and caring for God’s people as healthy people ourselves.
If activities do not fit into the narrowed focus of our lives and purposes, we must have the courage to let them go, trusting that the Lord will reward our faithfulness to follow the path set before us.
Simplicity as a spiritual discipline frees us from a posture of striving: striving for status, for popularity, for better relationships, for more hours in the day, for favor with God. Painful as it may be to remove the bitter fruit from our bunches, the maturity and fruit we receive in exchange is worth the sacrifice.
Simplicity challenges us to narrow our focus by humbly embracing our human limitations and creating space for God to speak. Simplicity is, in its purest form, a spiritual act of worship.
As we rest in pockets between camp and contact work, may we brave enough to ask where we can simplify, be humble enough to prune, and free enough to boldly pursue the lives—and students—He’s called us to lead.