Simplicity and Solitude


As I’ve prayed and thought more about simplicity over the last few days I haven’t had any big revelations. I know there is yet a lot to chew on, and certainly there is a part of me that yearns to be simplified, organized and disciplined, but there is also a part of me that fights back. Something about aiming for simplicity just doesn’t ring true for me; it doesn’t sound joyful, and I’m not convinced that it should be the goal. I’m not saying that simplicity doesn’t have its place. It does. But the balance isn’t struck by setting out to lead simple lives. The balance comes in embracing the lavish love of Jesus and in realizing that all we have comes from Him. Material possessions are held loosely by a humble person. A humble person doesn’t derive worth from things. So isn’t humility the goal? Isn’t knowing who you are in Christ the goal? Isn’t recognizing the source of true fulfillment the antidote to “the mammon spirit”? Maybe it’s semantics, but I like humble more than simple. Simple is just not something I feel called to be. Simple sounds boring. Humble is different. Humble never diminishes the intrinsic worth; it just points to the source. A leader can (and should) be humble and great at the same time. For me simple is not about pointing to someone else–yet this is the call of a Christian. Foster claims that simplicity is freedom. Celebration of Discipline by Richard J. Foster (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1998) p.79. But I’m uncomfortable with that statement. Simplicity has its place. My need for simplicity is great. But I cannot equate it with freedom. The paradoxes of this life are many. Freedom is found in submission. True identity is best found in death to self. And undoubtedly less is often more, but I cannot agree with the absolute “simplicity is freedom.”

I need to continue to seek wisdom and guidance on this front. It is a tough topic — a topic most of us need to ponder more often. On a related note a great sermon on humility was given by Lon Solomon on 10/04/09; watch or listen at


There is a time to be silent. Have you ever been in a situation so far over your head that your only option of escaping with a shred of respect was to keep silent? I have. Many times. I can remember being in meetings almost laughing to myself at my utter ignorance. “What am I doing here?” I’d think. I didn’t dare open my mouth and reveal to everyone else how out of my element I really was. That cognizance of my own ineptitude was a good thing. It meant I sat there and listened; listened like my job depended on it, which it did. Well, I think solitude is the same way. We need to realize our ineptitude. We need to listen like our lives depend on it because they do. So let’s turn off the radio, the iPod, the Pandora, and the television. Let’s put down the book. Let’s have enough discipline to stop composing the mental to-do list. Let’s be still and listen.

This week may we be like little Samuel saying, “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.” (1 Samuel 3: 10).

4 thoughts on “Simplicity and Solitude

  1. A lot of times I feel like simplicity is something I'll always strive for but never really obtain. But then there are times when I realize the more solitude I have, the simpler things become.

  2. Laurie says:

    I think “Solitude” is going to be one of my favorite chapters…but I wanted to comment a little bit more on simplicity…because though you say you “fight back”, I think you are the epitome of the those three inner attitudes! You recognize all is from Him, you “hold on loosely” and you are EXTREMELY generous. So there!

    Furthermore I think our Heavenly Father delights in giving us “stuff” much like we enjoy giving our own children all kinds of things we think they'll enjoy. Look at Solomon and Job. Though Solomon went a little off his nut with all his stuff, Job kept that inner attitude…”the Lord giveth, and the Lord taketh away.” Like Mom says, “the Lord knows all about it” and He knows which of us are going to be ALL about our stuff. He also knows which of us can maintain the stuff without it consuming us. Me? I can't imagine maintaining a “simple” life with thousands of herds of animals and people (which looks to have been the case with both Solomon and Job).

    I like using the word “stuff” (obviously!), because it reminds me of Bernadette Peters' role in “The Jerk” when she said, “it's not about the MONEY…it's about the STUFF!” Too funny.

  3. Laurie says:

    Solitude…I loved this chapter. I liked Foster's clarification that “Loneliness is inner emptiness. Solitude is inner fulfillment.” Celebration of Discipline by Richard J. Foster (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1998) p.96.

    It's all about LISTENING. I can relate to Thomas a Kempis, “It is easier to be silent all together than to speak in moderation.” I didn't expect this chapter to convict me about keeping my mouth shut, but it did. He touched a lot on how often we talk just to explain ourselves, when we need to trust God to be our justifier. I was convicted that I not only need to be genuinely present with people but also that the words I DO speak be full of MEANING and compassion. Like Thomas Merton observed, “It is in deep solitude that I find the gentleness with which I can truly love my brothers. The more solitary I am the more affection I have for them…Solitude and SILENCE teach me to love my brothers for what they are, not for what they say.”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s