Thursday, June 10, 2010

Sabbath, Simplicity, and Blessing

The toughest and yet simplest part of being a blessing to others is being there for others, being truly present for them. We bless others in different ways. I may not be able to be a blessing in the same way that you can be and you may not be able to be a blessing in the same way that I can be, but the common denominator, the factor that we all share, is that we have to actually be there. It is possible to bless from a distance but to actually be a blessing, distance is impossible.

I was reading a book this morning, actually it's the book by our church's soon-to-be settled pastor, David Auten. In the book, David talks about three kinds of people. There's the "soldier," the "sage" and the "saint."
"The soldier is a person of the hands who wills to do good for others in very practical ways. The sage is a person of the mind who thinks in order to help others see the world in a more holistic, God-centered way. The saint is a person of the heart who feels deeply in order to help people emotionally and relationally. We all play a part in each of those roles. Yet God tends to fashion us such that we fall into one role more than another."(Embrace, page 47)
This is a helpful way of looking at our unique and individual giftedness for the Kingdom of God. Now, interestingly enough, this discussion on giftedness shows up in the context of the section entitled, "Simplicity." At first, I didn't necessarily understand the direct connection between these things and the concept of simplicity. When I think of simplicity I think of living within (or below) your means, consuming as little as possible to maintain a sustainable lifestyle, and keeping independent from the draws of upward mobility and wealth. Now all of these are pieces of what simplicity might look like but, sadly, I don't immediately think of what should be at the heart of all of these choices--the sabbath.

Sabbath is about enjoying rest but it's also about creating a rhythm in life from which true growth and life can be cultivated. When we think of being a blessing, using our gifts to bless others, we don't usually think of rest or rhythm but blessing is ultimately about the same things that the Sabbath is all about--cultivating the life that is truly life.

Think of the person who is so busy doing good things (soldier) that they never really have a chance to be truly present for anyone. Think of the person who is so busy studying and learning (sage) that they never really have a chance to see or show how the lessons they're learning actually work out in real life. Think of the person who is so emotionally caught up in so many things (saint) that they become more of a hindrance than a help. The reason that these cannot be a blessing, the reason that their giftedness is going to waste is because they lack the simplicity that true Sabbath really offers.

To be genuinely present for people so that our doing, our teaching, and our emotional support can truly cultivate growth and life, means being free from machine-ism and the clutter of having to constantly produce. It means creating space, even sacred space, so that we can actually be there. To pursue this kind of simplicity is to pursue Christ, for Christ alone offers peace beyond understanding. We won't find simplicity through trying to produce simplicity. We will only find simplicity--the kind that cultivates growth and life in our lives and in the lives of others--in the God who rests, the God revealed in Jesus Christ.

2 comments:

Luke @ simplifi.de said...

Fascinating. As a follower of Christ and co-author of a simplicity blog, I have been thinking a lot about the concepts of Sabbath and simplicity interact. But I have never thought about it in the terms you explored in this post.

We won't find simplicity through trying to produce simplicity.

I struggle with this sentence. In my experience live a simple life takes concentrated effort - if I'm not trying to produce simplicity in my possessions, in my relationships, and in my inner life, then it doesn't happen.

As a Christian, I understand what you're saying, though - the peace that Christ gives is not available anywhere else.

Thanks for writing the post and for making me think deeper about the issue - would love to get more of your thoughts on the subject! And I'll have to add the book to my ever-growing reading list!

WES ELLIS said...

Luke,
Indeed, that sentence is troubling. If not by trying to produce it, how can I find simplicity? I wouldn't contend against the fact that it does take discipline and concentrated effort but it's not about productivity. It's about seeking Christ and cultivating true growth in the Spirit of God. There is a slight but important semantic difference. By our own effort, left to our own devices, we will only find ourselves more inundated and less available to others. But when we commit to creating space in our lives simply out of sheer love for Christ and not out of calculated obligation, we will find ourselves becoming more available to bless others.

I do recommend the book and I appreciate your thoughts. Thanks.