Several days ago I came across my old copy of Richard J Foster’s book Freedom of Simplicity. Our younger daughter had read one of his other books, Celebration of Discipline for a university assignment, and had shared it with me. We both liked it so much that I bought another of his books.
This book on simplicity has been added to my devotional reading most mornings, and I find it more of a delight now than when I first read it years ago. Funny how that works! I’m at a totally different stage now, and ready to simplify, if not minimize.
Foster tells of an experience he had in an airport awaiting his flight. Wanting to make good use of free moments, he had tucked among his things Thomas Kelly’s Testament of Devotion. His attention was immediately caught by the description of an over-obligated, strained lifestyle. A ray of hope came from the following words, ” We have hints that there is a way of life vastly richer and deeper than all this hurried existence, a life of unhurried serenity and peace and power. If only we could slip over into that Center!”
Watching raindrops splash against the airport window, Foster felt his own tears fall down, dripping onto his coat. He was aware of being in a holy place, an altar, just the chair he sat on, as he quietly asked God to help him learn to say “No” when he should.
As we have lived many years in South America, and consequently speak “Castellano”, I’ve often half jokingly told my overly busy English-speaking friends that I knew a helpful Spanish word they could use to assist them. “It’s No”, I said, spoken with just a little extra emphasis. Unfortunately they often proceed to tell me how there is no one else to fill their shoes and they feel they must comply.
When we belong to Christ, not only do we live in His grace, we also become partakers of His nature. This is a mind-blowing concept to me but I believe it so firmly because His Word assures us of the fact: in 2Peter 1:4 we’re told how the Lord has “given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption of the world through lust.” (NJKV) Wow! God wants to become our divine Center.
It has taken me a while to realize that every opportunity which is presented to me is not necessarily something that God in His wisdom intends for me personally. Some individuals are higher energy than others. Maybe it’s their metabolism or it could be that they were raised to avail themselves of each and every opportunity. They seem to thrive on lots of activity, and their calendar reflects it.
Others, like Foster himself, find they function best when they “alternate between periods of intense activity and of comparative solitude.” They may begin a project or activity “like a house a-fire” but after intense involvement takes its toll, they begin to burn out. Like the Lord, we need to learn to retreat and experience the refreshing of the Lord. As Foster points out, “Peter tarried in Joppa for many days with one Simon, a tanner. (Acts 9:43 ). And along our journey we need to discover numerous ‘tarrying places’ where we can receive heavenly manna.”
So it is important we examine every request for involvement of our energies, finances and time. We need to remind ourselves that saying “yes” to one things may mean saying “no” to something else. We definitely want what God has purposed for us, and fitted us to accomplish. The Bible says “whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” 1 Corinthians 10:31b (NKJV). That should be our goal and our purpose.
As Easter or Resurrection Sunday approaches, may we be especially attentive to all the ways the Lord chooses to speak to us. May we allow Him to be the divine Center in our minds, our hearts and our schedules. May we endeavor to always say “yes” to Him, whatever He instructs us. And may we have His strength and grace when it is wisdom to simply say “no”.