An ancient nun’s musings:
One day while I was visiting a convent, one of the very ancient nuns approached me in her wheelchair and struck up a casual conversation. When I asked her how she was, she gave me this curious answer: “Well, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what it means to have enough.” At the time her statement struck me as absurd. Here was a woman who had decades earlier taken vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. How could it be that so many years later she was talking about simplicity as though it were something new to her?
Well, I do not live in a convent and I have not taken a vow of poverty, but I think I am beginning to understand how many-layered simplicity can be; how in every aspect of my life I have so much more than enough…
The habit of comparison
Richard Foster, in his wonderful book “Celebration of Discipline,” writes, “How easily we begin to allow non-essentials to take precedence in our lives. How quickly we crave things we do not need until we are enslaved by them.” Modern Western culture contrives to foster a habit in us of perpetual comparison with those who have what we do not. Without even noticing, comparison can become a covetous preoccupation. And when that happens we miss the goodness of the gifts we have actually been given – whatever they are.
Simplicity, joy and God’s provision
Simplicity has a peculiar and unexpected relationship with joy. It brings freedom from the things that do not matter and unclutters our hearts so that we can fully appreciate those things that do matter. When I stop myself short of buying what I do not need, I become more aware of what I already own – so many clothes! So many luxuries in my home! (And perhaps even a few things that should have no place in my home – what a relief to see them go!) My mind is suddenly opened to the wonder, the plenty, all around me – gifts from the Father’s hand.
God has provided me with a place to live and a way to get around. He colours my world with seasons, with weather, with music and traffic, and with all of the beautiful and terrible constructions of humanity. I have everything I need, and in fact I know that I have far more than I need. What a blessing that the world should be so filled with lovely things, that I should have all that I need, and that I should know this to be true.
“Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” – Matthew 6:25-26 (NRSV)