There is a passage in the Bible that conveys an amazing possibility. I think even people who do not believe would have to admit that, if it were true, they would be thrilled. The passage has been on my mind and it strikes me that it has something to say to those of us, believers or not, who pursue simplicity.
Let me start by setting some context. Do you ever feel, as I do, that the world has too many expectations of common people like you? I pick up a magazine and look at the pictures and apparently I am supposed to be taller, in better shape, dressed nicer, more successful, and sexually supercharged. What is more, the message conveyed is that I should try really hard to achieve all this but should not expect to be successful and therefore should follow the rules in a desperate attempt to measure up. What rules? Boot Camp, yoga studio, and marathon running OCD. Outfits and accessories for every conceivable work, party, or exercise scenario. Prioritize office politics and power. Infidelity.
Expectations and effort with no hope of success. That is the game.
Who defines these expectations and requires our effort but assures we can never be successful? I think it would be hard to point fingers at any single person or even group of people. A person might put expectations on me because of his own insecurity. When I make an effort to meet those expectations, who is to blame? And does not my striving to satisfy those expectations also place a burden back on the person? Now I have put expectations on him to continue the game. Rule giver and rule follower both without hope of success.
That was the situation when Jesus spoke these words,
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.
At the time, Jesus was speaking against religious leaders who created oppressive rules for their followers. He changed the rules for his followers. Expectations and effort with no hope of success changed to acceptance and reliance with complete hope of grace.
His were not the rules coming from successful leaders of his time. In our times, these are not the rules you will hear from the editors of Cosmopolitan or Esquire. These are not the rules you will find at Nordstrom or Anthropology. Do not expect your yearly performance review to promote these rules. You certainly will not find them at urban bars or at the flirtatious social gatherings of suburbanites.
I believe this is why so many of us are attracted to simplicity in our times. Simplicity is like an easy yoke and light burden. After years of believing the expectations and putting in the effort only to fail to measure up over and again, simplicity is like rest. Simplicity changes the rules. What an amazing possibility. Who would not be thrilled?
But I must caution (I understand this point will not be received by everyone) that simplicity is only like an amazing possibility. Simplicity is like this. Imagine huge, really big and thick and unbreakable, glass doors that open onto the most magnificent outdoor scene your mind can comprehend. If you like forests, it is a forest scene. If you like the ocean, it is a beach scene. If you like mountains, it is a mountain scene. Whatever it is, if you were out there then you would be happy as can be. But you are behind the glass doors, and they are filthy and curtains are drawn across them. Simplicity is only like pulling the curtains and cleaning the glass. And there is much benefit in doing so. You have let the light in. You will receive pleasure looking outside. By looking out you will come to learn something more about beauty. Probably you will enjoy your time inside more knowing something so wonderful exists out there. That is what simplicity is like. Grace is like someone unlocking the glass doors and welcoming you outside.