With Jon Vallier

2 Secrets to a Simple Life

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Wouldn’t you like to answer the question of “how’s life?" with something other than "busy", "complicated", or "okay"?

Having experienced multiple seasons of my wife and I packing our bags, moving, changing jobs, having kids and starting a new life, we've continued to face the question, "How do we create a simple life?" 

As a Christian, a simple life is one of my deepest desires. One of the famous leaders in the first century church, St. Paul, wrote in his letter to the Thessalonians, "Now about your love for one another we do not need to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love each other... Yet we urge you, brothers and sisters, to do so more and more, and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody" (1 Thessalonians 4:9-12 NIV).

The question becomes, beyond loving God and loving others, HOW do I go about living a "quiet life"? The advice that Paul offers here has two parts: "minding your own business" and "working with your hands". The result is freedom and having the respect of those outside the church. For myself, this has been huge for my sanity and my family's health. Being a pastor means that you are a spiritual physician with a seemingly endless number of patients, needs, and opportunities. You can never do enough. It can feel like you are pouring your life into a black hole that always wants more. This can create the desire to be Superman or experience what many call "burnout". Unfortunately, pastors are far from alone in this struggle. Almost every salaried employee, young mother, business owner, and executive I've known has faced the same issues.

What help does a 2,000 year old letter offer us today? Frankly, it offers us the common sense that we simply don't want to apply. It hasn't been easy for Adele and I, but with each major life change we've sat down, looked that this passage, and asked how we should put it into practice. Every time, the same two things rise to the surface.

1. If we want to mind our own business, we have to say no to other people’s business. My friend Aaron Jordan once told me your "yes" is only as good as your "no". If you want to say yes to a healthy life and doing your best at your work, then you must be vigorous about saying no. If you don't know how to start, sit down and try to create a "not to do" list of all the things you shouldn't be doing. You may be surprised how many options you really could, and should, be saying no to.

2. If you want to mind your own business, you have to stay focused on your business. The advice to "work with your hands", is not so much a command to engage in manual labor as much as it is a command to do your own work. Once you've identified the big yeses in your own life you have to do all you can to stay focused on them. The faster the pace of your environment the harder it will be, but the more necessary it becomes if you want to accomplish anything. This is where putting "pen to paper" is really important. Get your big items written down, establish a deadline, and look at it every week. Recently, when we added our third child, Seth, to our family we had to figure out our big yeses all over again. We started by making a list of everything that we want to be doing, then we prioritized the list and worked it from top to bottom.

Again, your business is just that, your business. If you want to win the respect of those around you, finish your work first. If you don't, you are the 21st century version of a busy-body, inserting yourself where you don't belong, or an ever-century bum, expecting others to make up for your laziness. Only when you take care of your own business are you of any use to anyone else. The significance of this advice bears eternal weight. Your health, your home, and the respect of those outside the church are on the line. Dig deep, pray, remember God’s grace when you fail or succeed, and start by answering the question for yourself ‘how do I create a simple life?’

I'd love to hear from you! How have you sought to create a simple life?