Simplicity and the Spiritual Center

spiritual essaysThere’s a famous quote by G. K. Chesterton that says, “There are two ways to get enough: one is to continue to accumulate more and more. The other is to desire less.” His words carry a great deal of wisdom for our culture. If we’re to grow spiritually, we must grow in simplicity. To grow in simplicity means more than keeping things uncomplicated, rather it’s a spiritual disposition allowing us to see things more clearly in the complications of life.

As a therapist and spiritual director, I often encounter people focusing on the peripheral areas of life instead of the core values and ideas that allow us to live as Christians. In a wonderful book called “Freedom of Simplicity” Richard Foster demonstrates how a Christian can embrace a life of simplicity. One of the practices he proposes is living from what he calls “The Divine Center.” Living from the Divine Center is simply making God the very heart of all we do. It requires conscious effort and intentional execution in our daily routines. Foster describes it like this:

I hope you understand what I mean when I speak of living out of the Center. I am of course referring to God, but I do not mean God in an abstract theoretical sense, nor even God in the sense of One to be feared and revered. Nor do I mean God only in the sense of One to be loved and obeyed… I thought that serving God was another duty to be added onto an already busy schedule. But slowly I came to see that God desired to be not on the outskirts, but at the heart of my experience. Gardening was no longer an experience outside of my relationship with God – I discovered God in the gardening. Swimming was no longer just good exercise – it became an opportunity for communion with God. God in Christ had become the center.

By making God the center of our lives we know very quickly when we’re focusing on the complications of life rather than the simple heart of our existence. Service to God is not just an added duty we perform in our ministry rather it’s a permeating disposition in everything we do. When we live from the Divine Center we recognize when we’re doing too much or too little. We recognize when we’re filling our lives with too many possessions and activities instead of allowing the tasks we have at hand and the things we possess to be encounters with the divine. We know when our lives are expressing Christian simplicity when they’re filled with Shalom, that unique word for peace. The word Shalom is not as simple to translate as we think. Shalom means more than peace. The Hebrew word often is translated to mean completeness, wholeness, health, peace, welfare, safety soundness, tranquility, prosperity, perfectness, fullness, rest, harmony, the absence of agitation or discord.

The question to ask yourself is how often you live from the Divine Center rather than being pulled and pushed by what the rest of the world tells you is important? If you want to live simply the first thing you need to do is embrace Christ and make him the center of all you do and have. Possess Christ before anything else and you’ll have everything. Be intentional and ask yourself before engaging in any activity or purchase any item this simple question, “How does this allow me to live more fully for God?” If your answer gives you a sense of Shalom as described above then it’s probably a spiritually healthy thing to embrace. If not, it’s probably best to remain with Christ as you are and continue to enjoy the Grace he pours into your life with what you have and do. To possess Christ is to possess the fount of life and there is nothing more a person requires than this treasure.

If you liked this short essay and would like to read more you can purchase my book here.


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