Bullet Points for a Simpler Life
By JIM NICHOLS
He was a contract worker for a company that was installing new water meters throughout the city. Working in our front yard on a near 100-degree day, he used an assortment of wrenches, other tools, and impressive physical strength to remove our current meter from under the ground and replace it with a newer electronic one. He worked rapidly and efficiently since, he said, he just did one of these exchanges after another.
My life has included some physical work, but, in general, I have lived as a person of the mind rather than of brawn. There are complications to each, but one downfall of mine has been making life more complex than it should be. Either accidentally or by our choices, many of us find ourselves with more responsibilities than we can handle. We need to have an occasional “recalibration” of how to slow down and make life more pleasurable and meaningful and not so much about what we accomplish.
Some years ago, my friend Monty Lynn suggested we consider four ways to engage simplicity in our lives. Lists have some inherent problems, but these four items have been helpful to me and, perhaps, they will be helpful to you too.
- Make Peace with Things. “Things” here can be anything, but the fact of the matter is, each of us has too many of them. Right? Too many shoes, too many tools, too many shirts, too many sweaters. How many can we wear or use at one time? How many can we wear or use within a month or year? My garage has lots of stuff I am saving “. . . because I might need it some time.” That is a poor decision on my part. When I possess “things,” I have some responsibility for each of them and I must care for them. The time I spend caring for them takes time away from friends, family, and growing in every way. Each of the items may indeed be important and useful, but I, probably like you, have not only duplicates, but triplicates, and more than that. It is a trap for each of us and needs our attention of weeding things out.
- Redefine Value. We each value different possessions; let us make sure we place the correct value on each possession. In general, the possessions dealing with others are more important than physical possessions. I am happy to have a retirement fund, but the purpose of that fund should be for the maintenance of my life and people I love. That may ultimately involve some physical possessions, but should mostly involve time spent with others, time spent aiding others, time spent learning and growing and forgiving. It is worth asking myself “Why is it that I value this?”
- Engage Your Whole Life. It is important for each of us to re-evaluate what is truly on the top of our “fundamental goals of life” list. As we move through stages of life, that list has been re-arranged for logical reasons, but (speaking to myself now) we need to keep holding that list up to our understanding of God’s will and seeing how well they match. There was a time when much of my life was engaged appropriately with helping my wife with child-rearing. That is now generally in the past. What has moved into that life position and how fully am I engaged? I fear that each of us is too much engaged in activities or concerns that do not merit that much of our emotional, physical, or spiritual energy.
- Spare and Share. Consistent with the other points, the bounty of my life is great in many ways. My resources are immense compared to most others’. If I pared down even only somewhat, I would still have a great deal of this world’s stuff and I could give lots of it away without missing it at all. Perhaps I need to go on a diet of how much attention I spend caring for unimportant things and increase my generosity in many ways.
These suggestions are not new to any of us. Most of us do not need new information; what we need is to act appropriately on the information we already have as God’s people.
Jim Nichols is a retired Abilene Christian University biology professor and current medical chaplain