This morning a very dear friend asked, “How are you?” I said I was grateful–for yet another day to breathe, love, grow, laugh, walk, work in the yard and be with my dogs and eat my wife’s crockpot stew and drink cool water. And I thought to myself, “Old man you’re gettin’ pretty simple in your senior years.”
This reminds me of the last words of John Hus, as he was being burned at the stake. He was one of the bright and morning stars of what became the Protestant Reformation. He was an advocate for salvation through grace, faith, and Christ alone, on the authority of Scripture alone. These were the foundation of both the Reformation and, much later, of parts of the Catholic Documents of Vatican II. The flames were stoked by a bystander as Hus was being executed; his response: “O Sancta Simplicitas.” Oh holy simplicity, indeed: grace, faith, Christ, Scripture alone.
Two questions: First, how can we achieve the simplicity we need? Second, what are we afraid we might miss if we lived with more simplicity?
A recent and very helpful presentation at the American Association of Christian Counselors included an appeal for the simplicity of silence and solitude. God invites us through the Psalmist to “Be still, and know that I am God” (Ps. 46:10). And Jesus directs us, “When you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen” (Matt. 6:6).
The desk and room where I write are filled with pictures of places where God has given solitude and simplicity to my family. These places are like some of the lines of a Mozart sonata or the first movement of Bach’s Well Tempered Clavier. They are like a child’s first taste of solid food, like a dog’s way of leaning against your side, like the soft rise of the first light of day, or a Robert Frost poem.
They are reflections of the beauty of the Lord, the simple power of His Spirit whispering, at very early morning or just before sleep, “I love you.”
If we enter those places and sounds and words of stillness, solitude, and silence often enough, long enough, there can develop a quietness in our souls.
Almost as if we were living in a simpler time.
But second, what do we fear we might miss in simplicity?
Well, maybe more than anything we fear that simplicity would erode our significance and strength. It’s as if we believe ourselves to be stronger and more important if we’re faster, busier, anxious, in demand, noisy, and dominant. Simplicity, on the other hand, is quiet, peaceful, humble, and can be glad in the stillness of a held hand, a soft lullaby, the reading of a good book as a child drifts off to sleep, or a walk in the park.
But if we dare let God give us the courage to let go, only once in a while, of what seems so significant and strong, we might find ourselves living in the gladness of the heavenly places. And there, in that Beulah land, we can glimpse even from our earthly lives a land of quiet rest. And in that heavenly place we might find ourselves enjoying a new significance and strength.
The significance and strength of the Son of God himself.
Who makes us lie down in green pastures, leads us beside still waters, and restores our soul.
To a simpler time.