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Freedom of Simplicity by Richard Foster

This month, my book club is reading Freedom of Simplicity by Richard Foster. This is what I love about my book club – last month we read The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingslover (loved!), the month before was Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen (wonderful!) and before that, Harbinger by Jonathan Cahn (not so much). We’ve read biographies (Abigail Adams – I wish I could say I loved Abigail, but alas, I found her dull and pinched – maybe this is the biographer’s fault), memoirs (Glass Castle – sobering; Angela’s Ashes – ditto),  Christian living (Voskamp’s, One Thousand Gifts – obvious, Bonhoeffer’s, Cost of Discipleship – classic) and even some literary essays by Annie Dillard (Pilgrim at Tinker’s Creek – beautiful, Holy the Firm – not smart enough to understand but also beautiful).
I could go on and on; discussing books in all their many colors is easy. Taking their messages – those intended and unintended – and holding them even with my own ideas about reality and eternity can be somewhat like trying to catch a mud-slicked hog on Sunday morning (an overused simile, maybe, but if you knew my childhood as a hog farmer’s daughter, you might allow me the abuse).
So… this month is Freedom of Simplicity and I am already squirming – with the hog. The idea that I can somehow achieve a life of simplicity is laughable. There are many spiritual disciplines I welcome with open acceptance and pray for feverishly, partnering with God to grow – meditation, prayer, study, service, confession, fasting (okay, maybe not that one), and on. Then comes simplicity – ha!
Is it even reasonable to expect a woman with five children, married to a military doctor on the cusp of a new career in the civilian world, homeschooling (albeit, I would argue I often think my life is simpler for homeschooling) and has adopted (older children – just sayin’), to be capable of a life of simplicity? And let’s not forget the ridiculous idea I have of pursuing passions outside of keeping this Team Dragovich train from derail – namely, writing and running (and maybe I should, but I won’t let these go). Suddenly, I am Sarah of the Scriptures laughing at God (well, behind His back – as if that’s possible), knowing her circumstances are such not even a miracle can overcome them.
But then, within a year Sarah gave birth to Isaac at the age of ninety (see Genesis 17:17).
If I didn’t love Foster so much, I would have approached this read even more reluctantly than I already have. The truth is, I just don’t feel like practicing any spiritual disciplines right now, simplicity being the least of these. Right now, simply living is hard enough.
Oh, but I am not so lucky as to bury my head and have God not notice. In his chapter “Simplicity Among the Saints,” Foster highlights the simplicity of the ancient Desert Fathers and Mothers who left their cushy lives and fled to the desert, renouncing all life’s complexities along the way: possessions, comforts, activity and speech.
Speech? I’m appalled. And curious…
“Silence frees us from the need to control others. One reason we can hardly bear to remain silent is that it makes us feel so helpless. We are accustomed to relying upon words to manage and manipulate others.”
Busted! And then
it gets worse:
“A frantic stream of words flows from us in an attempt to straighten others out. We want to desperately for them to agree with us, to see things our way. WE evaluate people, judge people, condemn people. We devour people with our words. Silence is one of the deepest Spiritual Disciplines simply because it puts a stopper on that.”
Oh, the hot iron of conviction! Me and my many words – always and forever, many, many words (see?!).
The next paragraph begins:
“When we become quiet enough to let go of people, we learn compassion for them.”
Upon the word “compassion,” I throw my hands up in surrender. Once again compassion comes roaring back at me, this time in its silence.
I think we should further visit this idea of compassion and silence – personally and in relation to how – as a society – our lack of silence is affecting our country’s compassion levels (dare I go there?). But for now, shhhh….
(But, please! Feel free to respond to your thoughts, questions, ideas on the discipline of simplicity! What would you like to discuss?)