Big Box Stores
I cannot be trusted with a membership card to a big box store. My husband carries the card and therefore I can only go to one of these stores when he goes with me. He is my voice of reason. When I go down the aisles of food and stuffs in quantities that I will never consume in a lifetime I need him to talk me off the “gotta have it” ledge.
You see, I begin to imagine I need 20 pounds of potatoes or if one cantaloupe is good, six must be so much better, Do I really need a gallon jug of honey…? It will crystalize before I finish it. And don’t even get me started on the #10 cans (“Beef-a-rino” for all you “Seinfeld” aficionadas).
Before I enter one of these consumer paradises I need to remind myself of the benefits of simplicity. The Christian Discipline of simplicity, simply put is “an inward reality that results in an outward life-style.”(Richard Foster) Now don’t get me wrong, I am not suggesting that we need to walk around in sackcloth and ashes because it is very un-Christ-like to be that legalistic (unless there is a definite call by God to that lifestyle and then you might want to consider relocating to a monastery). If not careful, asceticism can become an idol, but the excess of consumerism in this present age can be on the opposite end of the idol-worship spectrum. I have learned after living and serving in other cultures it takes very little to make for a happy life.
Consumerism is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to living a life of simplicity. It seems to be one of the most obvious manifestations of what is going on with our inner life. As Pierre Teilhard de Chardin once said, “We are not physical beings having a spiritual experience; we are spiritual beings having a physical experience.” So besides credit card restraint, what else can be brought under the tutelage of the Holy Spirit through the practice of simplicity?
As a God-directed discipline, simplicity can affect our “many words”. “…the more you talk, the more likely you are to say something foolish.” Ecclesiastes 5:3 (GNT). This does not mean you become a mute or that you cannot enter a conversation, it simply means to be selective with your words. One old adage “Is it kind, necessary, true, and does it improve upon the silence?” (Sia Baba) should be our mantra every time we open our mouths or written correspondence. If I am selective about my words people are apt to listen when I do speak…kind of the “E.F. Hutton effect”.
If we are serious about the discipline of simplicity we will find the Holy Spirit may just begin to meddle with our schedules. We do not have to be all things to all people! You may be saying, “You have no idea the life I live”, and you are right, but if you lay your litany of responsibilities and activities and crammed schedules before the Lord He can make us very aware of what is a priority and what is not. Are you willing to do some stripping away? This is not a comfortable school of thought. He can also make us aware of seasons in our lives and the life of our family. What may need to take a back seat while we have toddlers or as we chauffeur our young teens changes over time. There is an ebb and flow to our lives.
I was an avid reader of CliffsNotes as a high school student. It cut through all the rhetoric and helped me get down to the true meaning of whatever I was studying. In his book, Discipline and Discovery, Albert Day he puts the areas of simplicity in a bite-size form: “Simplicity frees us from the tyranny of the self, the tyranny of things, and the tyranny of people.”
So the next time you have the urge to go to one of those big box stores you might want someone to come along as the voice of restraint. You’ll thank yourself for it later.