Seek First...: thoughts on simplicity and the "real world"
"The only way to live in any true security is to live so close to the bottom that when you fall you do not have far to drop, you do not have much to lose." _Dorothy DayThis quote is so very pertinent to my life right now... why am I trying to climb? Why am I so concerned with my own security? I must learn to discover the simplicity which, until recently, has been little more to me than an idea. I have been so concerned with my financial situation that I have placed "being responsible" over following Christ. Though my situation is very different from "climbing the corporate ladder" or trying to "get ahead" there is a very real sense that I am perusing security and it has taken up residence in my mind and has begun to transform my mind without my permission.
I think I see why so many people go to college and build a very noble value system only to abandon it for the "real world." I see why people lose sight of the things that are really important to them. It's as though they learn truth and beauty and then they enter into this strange new world where those things are seen as unrealistic. They don't really know what they're doing in this world so they just listen to the people around them who think they've got it figured out. They hear the voices that say, "taking care of the poor is ok, but you've got to take care of yourself" and since they feel a little lost they readily accept any advice they can get, slowly conforming to the patterns of this world. The voices around them take their minds and their imagination captive and they exchange truth and beauty for cynicism and complacency.
I have only recently entered this world and all the ideas I have about living simply and creatively seeking God's Kingdom above security, wealth, and comfort have slowly begun to seem impractical and out of reach. Thus Romans 12 has taken on new meaning for me.
"Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will."If we do not seek transformation from Christ, if we do not take Christ as our example and take that example seriously to the most serious level, then we will be transformed by the world with or without our permission. You see, it's quite impossible to discern God's good, pleasing, and perfect will if money and comfort take up residence in our minds because God's will has literally nothing to do with those things. In our confusion and in our vulnerability our love for others dims and our concern for trying to "make it" in this world brightens. Seeking first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness/Justice (Matthew 6:33) means not working for "the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life" (John 6:26-27). Seeking Christ, seeking to be transformed by the renewing of mind means selling all we have, selling out on our concern for self, selling... if only to get them out of our minds... our values for wealth and comfort. Following Christ means giving up on worrying about tomorrow for tomorrow has enough trouble of it's own (Matthew 6:34). Following Jesus means remembering that "we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it" (1 Timothy 6:7). Is not following Jesus about emptying yourself of selfishness?
"Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter— when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?" (Isaiah 58:6-7).Following Jesus and seeking first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness means trusting and praising "God from whom all blessings flow" (this is why we sing the song after we give offerings and tithes) rather than trusting and praising the advise of the world from which only counterfeit blessing flows. Seeking this God's kingdom means actually taking the imagination of God and the simplicity of Jesus Christ into the strangeness of the "real world" just as folks like Saint Francis, John Wesley, Mother Teresa, and Shane Claiborne have done throughout our family history... and it means creatively doing so in whatever capacity and in whatever setting we may find ourselves.
I feel called today to rediscover the passion I have not yet completely lost and to start again now in seeking first the Kingdom of God in all its simplicity and peace.
"But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs" (1 Timothy 6:6-10)