Blog Post

The Illusion of Simplicity

I don’t know about you, but these days I feel an overwhelming urge to get everything in order. I have a yearning to declutter so I can live the “Simplified Lifestyle” that feels like the ideal we’ve been invited to chase these strange days. So I chase.  

As I continue to spend a great deal of time on my job and my people, I also declutter—moving from garage, to pantry, to bookshelves, to basement, to closet. (Oh, the closet! How can I possibly let go of those one-hit-wonder blue sequined joggers that played a leading role in my favorite Christmases ever?)   

I feel frustrated because I sense no end in sight.  And I feel fear when I acknowledge just how complex the workings of life—and relationships—are.   It would be so much easier to control it all.  

These organizing efforts feel like a game of Whack-a-Mole at the summer fair. My adrenaline pumps and offers me a hit of immediate gratification with each strike. It’s fun, distracting, and when well played, offers a big win—a cute, furry dust collector that will become part of the next declutter initiative. I wonder: Is this quest for simplicity really an illusion, a distraction keeping me away from something much bigger and more joyful?     

The other day I shared a beautiful conversation with a dear friend. We talked about fear and the habits we are allowing to take over or choices we are making with intentionality. Something my friend—an intelligent, accomplished, wise, and generous woman—said from her comfortable home securely tucked away behind gates and guards stopped my breath and gave me a check in my spirit. “All that is required of us is to hold still,” to which I felt moved to offer, “And explore this new space we have been given.” 

As I sit with these thoughts in my comfortable, safe, light-filled perch, the words of Henri Nouwen came before me in a devotional entitled “Come Home to Where Love Dwells.” He wrote, “Home is the place where that first love dwells and speaks gently to us. It requires discipline to come home and listen, especially when our fears are so noisy that they keep drawing us outside of ourselves.”  The real yearning is becoming clearer: not a decluttered space, but to go to my first home seeking my first love. 

So no more getting all the things in order, at least for now. Instead, I take space and get quiet. I pray for the wisdom, grace, and courage to do only what is essential, to detach from the idol I’m sensing this quest for simplicity could become, and to attach to the promptings of my first love tucked way deep down inside of me. These promptings propel me to love, to become clearer about who I am, what is mine to do, and to explore what my greatest contribution to the “bigger and more joyful” fair I’m invited to may be.  By Sandy Swider

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