Meagan and I are getting ready to move across town–closer to work, friends, and the place our church meets.
Even though we currently live in a garage, getting ready to pack up for a move has its way of surprising us with how much stuff we have. I realized recently I had far too many pairs of underwear, and sometimes I just have to wonder, “Do I really need all of these books?” Yes, excess can live even in a relatively small space.
The idea of shedding excess is a growing ideal all around us. “Simplicity” and “minimalism” are words used in increasing popularity. It seems more people have finally believed rightly that stuff won’t make them happy. They’re pressing hard against the idea that significance is found in the accumulation of things like wealth, power, and fame.
Last night, I watched a documentary on Netflix called Tiny. It’s about the tiny house movement, people choosing to forgo a large house to live in a tiny dwelling. Many of these homes are under 200 sq. ft. It’s a fascinating symptom of this trend–redefining The American Dream to exclude the McMansion. As I watched the film, I was drawn to the idea of it all, stripping away everything until the only thing that’s left is what’s truly necessary.
The lack of complexity is romantic and makes me want to take a long, deep breath through my nose and exhale slowly through my mouth. Although not everyone can or will live in a house the size of some closets, we can all glean something from the example–less is most definitely more. Do you agree?
Jeff Shinabarger wrote a book called More or Less (af. link) that changed my life. The book is based on a similar theme–critically looking at our lives through the lens of the question, “How much is enough?” Jeff writes about how we can rethink our time, space, commitments, and relationships in a way that makes us both more faithful and selfless. As I watched Tiny and read Jeff’s book (and others on the same topic), I thought through how my identity as a follower of Christ truly plays into this movement.
What role do Christians play in the cultural movement to rid excess? I believe we should participate, yes. But I believe we should go above and beyond that and actually help lead the charge.
Does this mean every Christian should move into a tiny house and hand-make clothes? No, but we should all think critically about the way we spend our money, time, and energy–considering the implications of each on our neighbors and our world.
This isn’t meant to be an idol where we bow at the gold statue of Simplicity. Critically analyzing our lifestyles in this way should simply be a symptom of worshiping a God who is more than enough for what we want and need. When we find our satisfaction fully and completely in Him, our stuff becomes a joy to distribute. Generosity becomes a way to share the love of God with the world.
Does this mean we should feel guilty every time we go out to eat? Should we feel shame if we buy a cup of coffee from a coffee shop? No, but we should realize these things are not where true meaning is found. It’s not found in a bigger house or in a the next purchase. True meaning is found in spending ourselves on loving God and loving other people. Part of doing this is taking an honest assessment of what’s enough.
Jeff Shinabarger cites an interesting piece of research in his book about what our culture perceives to be enough:
“The Pew Research Center embarked on an eye-opening study that gives a remarkable snapshot of what we determine is necessary. The underlying question was simple: what would be on your list of things you can’t live without? Eighty-eight percent of the people researched said they couldn’t live without a car. Sixty-six percent needed a clothes dryer. Forty-seven percent couldn’t live without a microwave. Fifty percent needed a home computer. Forty-nine percent needed a cell phone.”
Ask yourself of each area in your life, honestly, “What is enough?” Then, question those answers again. “Is that really enough, or is it still too much?” I’m walking down this journey as I learn to enjoy God more and value his people with greater depth. I’m not perfect. I love my clothes dryer and just went and bought myself lunch when I could have made it with what’s in the refrigerator.
The conversation around simplifying will be wrapped in hypocrisy and will contain a certain level of relativity. It will look different for everyone. The important thing is that we continue to ask ourselves the question, “What is enough?” and live accordingly.
Jesus, you are enough for us.