Though advances in technology, medicine, psychology, etc., are growing exponentially, and the “gyre” of our world is nearly out of control, we are called by God to live in it (though not be OF it). Greg gave practical advice about how to live within the “widening gyre” that he discussed last week: strengthen our center by prioritizing and simplifying. It sounds easier than it is.
Greg started with a summary of last week’s message: the traditional life had continuity and community because there was overlap between the various things people were involved in. People were not very mobile and there were not many aspects of life that involved people or places outside their immediate families and local community. The modern life is fragmented with different people we deal with for many different aspects of our lives in many different locations. This has caused our culture to be one of much higher stress. Two basic responses to this were offered: we must prioritize and simplify.
Rocks first, then gravel and sand… Greg did a visual aid that showed how various things we know are important will not fit into our lives if we try to squeeze them in after most of the other things we are involved with. But if we put the “rocks” (highest priority things) in first, much more of the sand will fit as well. Getting priorities right is good for both the rocks and the sand in our lives. Failing to do this hurts us all around. Greg then listed five “rocks” we all need to recognize.
1. Healthy relationship with God: Even Jesus took time to be with God and nurture that relationship.
2. Healthy relationship with yourself: We are finite beings, and we need time to rest and recharge, time to sleep, time for you, take care of yourself.
3. Healthy relationship with others: Parents, children, close friends — all of these (if they apply) are necessary intimate relationships. It is important that the time we allot for these relationships includes “hang time,” where we are just spending time together, and the time frame is not pressured or cut short. We simply must set aside time for the meaningful relationships we are trying to have.
4. Means of support: It is a part of the image of God that we work and create with our time and resources. We work to support ourselves and those who depend upon us.
5. Building the Kingdom: All of the above is a part of our role as Kingdom people who build God’s vision here on earth. But there are also particular things that God will call us to in addition to the above. We need to be attentive and obedient to those ministries as well. Without all five of these rocks in place, nothing else in our lives will be as it God desires.
1. “More, better, faster…”: In our culture, we genuinely feel desires as though they are needs. This is a lie from the pit of hell. “Need” is a relatively easy term to define for a human being. We need food, shelter, and clothing to survive. We need the five things listed above to thrive. We do not need “more, better, faster…”
2. “More money”: Our desire for more stuff often causes us to feel that we need more money. For this reason, the average American actually works 47 hrs a week. The average used to be 40 and most jobs hire for this, but the average is now 47 hours. In addition to working harder to earn more money, we tend to spend more than we have. The average US household is $14,000 in debt, not including mortgage!
3. “Opportunities”: These may be for ourselves or for our children. There are more opportunities for us to take advantage of today than there ever have been. The problem is that these opportunities compete for the same time and resources that the five “rocks” above require of us. Do the rocks first, then consider the opportunities when it comes to deciding what to do with truly extra time and resources.
4. “Acquaintances”: don’t rob quality relationships to invest in a high quantity of casual relationships!!! We often keep casual relationships going because it is too awkward to end them. Some people don’t have good boundaries, and that may make things more difficult. But because we are finite, we have to say, “I am sorry, but I just can’t do more for/with you.” “I can’t be your best friend,” etc. We must not sacrifice “rock” relationships for “sand.” “Sand” is good but must be properly prioritized.
We can see that fragmentation is having a lot of unrelated tasks in unrelated places among unrelated people. Simplification is just the opposite. It is relating tasks, places and people together. Consolidate life in relationships and communities. Don’t try to run it alone. Greg described “the simplification principle” this way: “Don’t do alone what can be done with others. Think team, not solo.” Just some of the areas in which we might be able to do this include: work, shopping, taking breaks, fixing things, ministry. DON’T be too utilitarian! It might actually be more efficient to do it alone, but doing things together can support the “rocks” in your life, which is a higher priority than simply “efficiency.” Buying tools together with neighbors might not be the quickest way to get the job done, but you are doing positive building of various sorts when you do it this way. You are reinforcing community and interaction. You are building relationships that are close to the center. Greg also mentioned that starting a small group can be a way to simplify your life. At first it may seem to complicate things, and at first, it does. But over time, it can help to collapse some of the circles and have a small group as a context to build the “rock” relationships you really do need in your life. These things take time. It won’t be done by tomorrow, but over time, with dedication to prioritize and simplify, stress can be reduced, and the quality of your Christian life will increase.
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