Tis the Gift to be Simple

One of my sister's favorite tunes is "Simple Gifts," a Shaker hymn made famous by Aaron Copland's Appalachian Spring. It begins, "Tis the gift to be simple, tis the gift to be free." Most of us will readily agree with the second part. Freedom is certainly a precious gift. But what about the first part? It's a gift to be simple? Really? Simplicity is a blessing? One might initially balk at such a statement, but if you've ever had life to be too complicated for too long, you'll know this is true.

I admit my own personal bias in this area. My friends assure me I'll never be a truly simple man, but I'm also the group monk: complex of personality, simple of tastes. I don't do exotic food (and I tell servers to burn my steaks), I wear the same simple style of clothes, I like simple wooden furniture . . . I'm the group monk. Keeping things simple is a personal preference, but I think it's good advice for all of us. Simplicity creates its own sort of peace, and peace is something of a rarity in our increasingly chaotic world.

The less goes on around us, the less we have to worry about. The less we worry, the more peace we have. If we clutter our lives, we'll worry about losing our stuff. If we have to be at every "in" event, we'll worry about missing out. If we get lost in nuance, we'll worry what people might truly mean and come to distrust them. These worries rob us of our peace. Paul says this: "For God is not a God of disorder but a God of peace" (1 Cor. 14:33a); and again, "For he [Christ] himself is our peace" (Eph. 2:14a). God is peace and grants us peace. He removes the worry and grants us the gift of simplicity.

May we all learn to embrace that gift as never before. Make it an act of counterculture, of revolution in our world. Let us be a simple people. Let us be simply Christian.

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