Simplicity: A Lenten Path

by Beth A Richardson on March 12, 2011 · 46 comments

stone on sand

by Ann Hagman

No Church season is closer to my heart than Lent. Lent is derived from the Anglo Saxon word lenctem, meaning spring. The word reflects the lengthening of days as we move from winter towards summer. Lent is the 40 days (excluding Sundays) between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday. Traditionally it has been a time of fasting commemorative of Jesus’ 40 days of fasting in the wilderness following his baptism. Lent also recalls the 40 days that Elijah and Moses both spent with God, as well as the 40 years that Israel spent wandering in the desert. Lent prepares the way for the greatest observance of the year, the death and resurrection of Jesus. Following Easter comes Pentecost or the coming of the Holy Spirit, and Kingdom tide, the post-Pentecost season that stretches across the summer until the celebration of Christ the King around Thanksgiving time.

Lent is the perfect season of the year for solitude and self-reflection. As we spiritually journey into the desert, Lent is a time to reexamine our boundary lines and get realigned, set in right relationship with God and the world around us. This year I would like to suggest a Lenten path to travel as the days grow longer and Easter approaches. That path is one of simplicity.

Simplicity, contrary to the suggestion of its name, is not a particularly simple or easy way. Life is very complex and the walk of simplicity is complicated and demanding, but the rewards are a hundredfold. Simplicity is not about poverty, or a renunciation of possessions, or a set of dos or don’ts. Rather simplicity is a spiritual discipline that reorients one’s life by deliberately organizing it for a purpose. It is spiritual because simplicity deals intimately with the beliefs and views that lend shape and order to our lives. Simplicity is a discipline because we have to work at it and practice it in order to apply it in our lives. Adhering our life to a focused center reduces the fracturedness of our lives. Our priorities are aligned to the focus of our lives, and the way we live out our simplicity in terms of our time, energy, and money becomes a reflection of our inner beliefs. Each of our paths will be unique to our situations.

On the most basic level, simplicity means being honest and sincere with ourselves about our faith and what really matters most to us. Simplicity requires at least two things: being willing to be vulnerable by embracing openness to God and to life, and believing it is God’s path to abundant life for us.

If you think simplicity might be a path that you would benefit from traveling, you can pursue it in any number of different directions. For instance, your outward expression of simplicity can be material, relational, financial, or spiritual. By material I mean dealing with the physical stuff in your life. Is your home full of things that add beauty or function or that simply take up space and require energy and money to maintain them? Relational simplicity applies to our relationships with people and time. Do we truly listen? Do the people who matter most in our lives receive the time and energy from us that properly reflects their priority to us? How do we use our time? Do we expend significant amounts of time on unnecessary matters?

Financial simplicity encompasses the way we spend our money and use credit. Are our financial investments wise? Pleasing to Christ? Helpful to others? Spiritual simplicity involves our relationship with God and our understanding of life. It includes honesty and integrity.

Simplicity touches every area of our lives as we open more facets of ourselves to God and the central value that directs our lives. Pick the area that draws you the most and begin your journey there, trusting in God’s grace and guidance. Often times it is helpful to use a resource to focus our devotional efforts. My book Climbing the Sycamore Tree: A Study in Choice and Simplicity is a useful resource for the faith focus of simplicity, especially as it affects our economic choices. There are also many other good books to help guide you.

May the 40 days of Lent enlighten you as you allow Christ’s light to shine more brightly in your lives and lead you into a path of simplicity and abundant life.

Ann Hagmann is a chaplain for Hospice Austin (Texas) and the founder of Whispering Hope Ministries for Healing and Wholeness. She worked for more than 14 years as a manager for AT&T and Southwestern Bell before ordination. Hagmann served 10 years as a United Methodist Church pastor. She holds a B.A. in psychology from the University of Arkansas and a D.Min. from Perkins School of Theology of Southern Methodist University. This article first appeared in Alive Now online, March/April, 2002.

Beverly March 15, 2011 at 10:00 pm

Thanks for your sharing on simplicity. I will put to use the statements that you shared and know that it will make for a better life for me.

Beth Richardson March 16, 2011 at 9:47 am

Blessings to you, Beverly. Thank you for taking the time to read the article.


tami March 15, 2012 at 8:22 am

Openness to God and believing in God’s path ..things I have been wrestling with this Lent.
Thank you for your words for my feelings and steps to help move further on the journey.

Beth Richardson March 15, 2012 at 8:38 am

Thanks, Tami, for sharing your thoughts. Many blessings,

Jayne February 25, 2013 at 11:27 am

I am working on simplifying the “stuff” I brought with me into retirement. Downsized a lot when I finally retired, but need to do more. The more time I spend in Centering Prayer, the more my life flows from the center of God. It will always be a journey.

Beth Richardson March 1, 2013 at 8:52 am

Thank you, Jayne. Many blessings, Beth

Nancy March 1, 2013 at 5:18 am

Working at making my life simpler by ridding my home of stuff that just takes up space. My goal is to go through each room & make changes.. Finding simplifying life gives more time to read & study Gods word..

Beth Richardson March 1, 2013 at 8:52 am

Thank you, Nancy. There is so much stuff, isn’t there?


Ken Linscott March 2, 2013 at 2:04 am

Yes, ” Simplicity requiring at least two things: being willing to be vulnerable by embracing openness to God and to life”, and, to me, being prepared to be surprised by the simplicity of God’s abundant response.
Thank you Beth and Ann

Beth Richardson March 4, 2013 at 9:05 am

Blessings and thanks to you, Ken.

Nancy March 3, 2013 at 4:51 am

Searched several book stores for the book with no success .. Finally had Barnes & Noble order it for me.. Can’t wait to read it..

Beth Richardson March 4, 2013 at 9:04 am

Thank you, Nancy. 🙂

John Schneider February 28, 2014 at 9:59 am

Thanks for this… my sermon this Sunday 3/2/14 is on Simplicity. How timely for it to be here and for me to find it. PTL

Jane February 15, 2016 at 6:57 pm

“By material I mean dealing with the physical stuff in your life. Is your home full of things that add beauty or function or that simply take up space and require energy and money to maintain them?”

I loved the many facets discussed in this article… when reorganizing my kitchen I discovered how much unnecessary things I had and how much space they took up… soooo the above quote was already on my mind… continuing on this path for Lent is my intention WITH PRAYER AND GODS HELP because this isn’t automatic for me at all!!! A wonderful picture of going inward too.

Phyllis February 18, 2016 at 10:45 am

I have recently retired and am in the process of ‘liberating’ many of my belongings so my journey can be lighter. I have also this past year helped several friends pack up homes left by deceased loved ones. I found this quote and wanted to share.
“Believe me, if we want art to begin at home, as it must, we must clear our houses of troublesome superfluities that are for ever in our way, conventional comforts that are no real comforts, and do but make work for servants and doctors. If you want a golden rule that will fit everybody, this is it:
Have nothng in your houses that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.
William Morris 19 February 1880

Comments on this entry are closed.

{ 31 trackbacks }

Previous post:

Next post: