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Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Keep it Simple

Have you ever stopped to consider just how complicated we can make life? We have a way of taking things to the extreme, don't we?  I don't think we would have ever ended up with "super-sized" drinks, burgers, and fries if we didn't take this idea of taking things to the extreme a little too seriously! When we try to over-think things, we usually add complexity to the situation, don't we?  I think we tend to think unless we have the next greatest idea, or get all "deep" in our answers to someone, we aren't really going to shine.  In fact, I think we sometimes face scripture this way - thinking we have to get all "deep" and have some totally "awesome" interpretation of the meaning of the passage.  Maybe we just complicate things too much by thinking "too deeply" since God's message was written to common people, with common problems, needing common answers, and common sense!

I tested everything in my search for wisdom. I set out to be wise, but it was beyond me, far beyond me, and deep—oh so deep! Does anyone ever find it? I concentrated with all my might, studying and exploring and seeking wisdom—the meaning of life. I also wanted to identify evil and stupidity, foolishness and craziness. One discovery: A woman can be a bitter pill to swallow, full of seductive scheming and grasping. The lucky escape her; the undiscerning get caught. At least this is my experience—what I, the Quester, have pieced together as I’ve tried to make sense of life. But the wisdom I’ve looked for I haven’t found. I didn’t find one man or woman in a thousand worth my while. Yet I did spot one ray of light in this murk: God made men and women true and upright; we’re the ones who’ve made a mess of things.  (Ecclesiastes 7:23-29 MSG)

Sometimes we are guilty of increasing our possession without maintaining our goal.  We may set out in an honorable manner, with an honorable and achievable goal, but in the end we get all caught up in the things which only serve to complicate our lives.  God made us simple - we are the ones who have developed the complexity in life!  Anytime sin has a chance to enter into any space in our lives, complexity is sure to follow.  We might complicate life with our possessions - what it is we possess might just come to possess us! We might complicate life with our attitude - what starts out to be pure can become warped when pride takes hold.  We might complicate life with our desires - what tantalizes us just "enough" will often be what lends difficulty in our lives.  We have to learn to keep life simple - it is the way we were made!

Looking at the things which complicate our lives, I think we can turn first to our "treasures" - those things which we set out to possess as our own. Treasure on this earth has some personal risk associated with it - for what we come to own, we have to also protect.  It takes a great deal of time and energies to protect things we might treasure, but not all treasure is worth such effort.  A bone is nice treat for a dog to chew on, but after a short while there isn't any meat on it anymore.  What once had such appealing qualities isn't the same any longer.  So, why does he go to such lengths to ensure no other dog finds his treasure?  The dog growls at anyone attempting to take it away, or even digs a hole to hide it.  To you, the bone seems like a silly "treasure" to go to all that effort for when his food bowl stands full beside the refrigerator!  Sometimes I think we act the same way, allowing all our focus and energies to be directed to what "promises" satisfaction, but which really has not a whole lot of potential to do more than get us to worry a whole lot about it!

Our possessions can become our obsessions.  Our pursuits can become our passions.  Our pride can become our undoing.  Stop for a moment and consider our "starting place" in life.  We come into this world with no real possessions of our own - naked, hungry, and desiring closeness.  We don't complicate this right away, but as soon as we are able to see a toy, claim it as our "own" and then gnaw away on it like a dog on its bone, we become quite possessive of what we possess, don't we?  It can take a good many years to learn this whole concept of "sharing" - but deep down inside, it may take us even longer because we can give the toy over to the other kid without really dealing with the deeper longing to get it back!  The desire to get it back will drive us - watching for the exact moment the kid puts the toy down, quick to snatch it back into our possession.  Yep, we "shared" for a while, but we quickly reclaimed it as "ours".  The other kid screams as he watches the tiny toy squirreled away by our quick hands - beckoning moms everywhere to focus on teaching us a lesson or two about kindness, sharing, and the like.  Oh, we have a way of turning simple into complex in just a short matter of time, don't we?

Now, lest I end on a bummer here, let me share a little truth I think Solomon was trying to get us to focus on in his writing of the Book of Ecclesiastes. You see, I think he has worried a few bones in his time, complicating life with all he possessed and what ultimately came to possess him.  I think he may have struggled with this whole concept of contentment - what do you think?  One thing I see in his writings is this idea of where it is we "start" in any pursuit. Our starting place often determines our sense of satisfaction with what it is we obtain in the end.  For example, if I start out expecting to get some huge, deep, never before seen point from the passage in scripture I am reading, I may be utterly disappointed in the end.  Solomon was quick to remind us there is absolutely nothing new under the sun!  On the other hand, if I present myself to God, mind open to the possibilities of receiving from him, regardless of how "deep" or "profound" the truth may be, he will indeed point me to the nougat of truth he desires for me to possess.  The difference is the starting point.  

God isn't looking for us to have the latest and greatest truth - he is looking for us to be open to the truth we have been given and to allow it to affect our lives.  He doesn't measure our passion by how "deep" we are, but by how "naked" we are willing to become in our communication and time with him.  He isn't looking for us to work out our sin, but to work our way toward him with our sin - so he might remove it and the complexity it has create in our lives. He isn't expecting us to get it all the first time we hear a lesson from him, but he is expecting us to remember tidbits along the way until we get the totality of it worked out in our lives.  We make it complicated - he desires to keep it simple.  Maybe we'd do well to un-complicate our lives a little and see how much more God can do with the simplicity of our genuine love!  Just sayin!