The Hard Way: Choosing a Simple Way

I find myself incredibly frustrated with myself sometimes. It usually occurs when I have to organize my garage, my office, my bed side table, or the basement. “How did I come to have all this stuff,” I wonder as I begin work to clean up. As I clean, more times than not, I have found that I have held onto things of no value, of no use and of no meaning. Why can I not give things up I don’t really need?

The words of Abba Pambo, one of the Desert Fathers in the early centuries of the Christian faith, is credited with s
tating, “The monk’s garment should be such that he could throw it out of his cell for three days and no-one would take it.” Before moving past those words, read them out loud for a moment. Consider the real meaning of it.

The Desert Abbas and Ammas were generally in the desert to fight the trappings of the world’s temptations and wrestle with their own demons and passions. You might say, simplicity was a given. They had very little. So this statement is not about a monk that has no need for his cloak, for it would likely be the only one he had. Nor was it in regards to the integrity of his fellow monks. It is that this one cloak was his only one and is in such a condition no one would consider it a trade up to take it. It would have been all he had and even what he had was worth nothing.

Simplicity is a choice for sure but it is more than that if we truly believe the example set for us by Jesus Christ and the early apostles. Clearly the example of Pope Francis has been refreshing to see but how is this impacting the everyday Roman Catholicism? I keep reading he is inspiring protestants as well, so I am wondering where in the protestant churches and mainline churches, are we seeing a similar standard being set for us? Whose giving up their cloak? Yes, there are those like Shane Claiborne, but who else? And who is following the path of simplicity who are clergy? Yes, I am looking in the mirror. I know this, my sin.

What would be your “cloak?” Your salary? Your house? Your position? Would anyone want it? Could you give it up if Christ Jesus were to ask, “Come and follow me?” Yeah, sometimes I really don’t like looking in the mirror. The idea of living simply is not hard but the actions it will demand? Well, that is a whole other point, one I suspect we’re uncomfortable with for ourselves. Could we say with Paul, “I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need (Philippians 4:12 ESV).”  Maybe it does start with one cloak (or coat). Really, how many do you need? 

I think you ought to know, I haven't really got this all figured out in my own life.  I don't for one second claim, I am living simply.  I am being formed right now, wrestling with what God has been doing in my soul and life.  So the idea of spiritual formation as some way to introduce new age or pagan practices into the Church, is tragically flawed. It assumes the worst rather than examining the evidence, evidence that spiritual formation is about forming our lives according to the example of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.  That is not some simple, easy, navel-gazing work.  Because where it leads me is to consider that maybe rather than giving away a cloak or coat I don't want anymore (and maybe one no one would want), you and I need to give away one we do want and keep the one a bit more worn and tattered. Wouldn’t that be closer to giving our first fruits? 

Yeah, I know. I gotta clean out my closet now and maybe buy a coat for someone.


Craig L. Adams said...

Thanks for the challenge, Ken. We all need it.

Ken L. Hagler said...

Hey Craig, thanks for stopping by and commenting!

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