My lovely lady recently came across stories of people who are trying mightily to simplify their lives. One approach was by women who went on a “closet diet” on which they wore only six items of clothing for a month. (www.sixitemsorless.com; www.farmersdaughterct.wordpress.com; ) The six item limit apparently did not include underwear. One woman, Sheena Matheiken, wore the same black dress for a year as part of her effort to raise support for the education of children living in slums in India. (www.theuniformproject.com) Then there are the minimalists who challenge us to divest ourselves of all but 100 items. Try Googling “100 Things” to check it out. Most of the folks engaged in these projects are motivated by concern for living simpler, more “sustainable” lives that contribute to their personal well-being, to the protection of the environment and to the living conditions of others. Worthy causes to be sure. Today I came upon another incentive for the simplification of our lives, from John Bunyan’s 332 year-old classic, The Pilgrim’s Progress. Excuse – or enjoy – the quaint old English:
Now as they [pilgrim, Mr. Greatheart, and their guide] were going along and talking, they espied a boy feeding his father’s sheep. The boy was in very mean clothes, but of a very fresh and well-favoured countenance, and as he sate by himself he sang. “Hark,” said Mr. Greatheart, “to what the shepherd’s boy saith.” So they hearkened, and he said:
He that is down needs fear no fall,
He that is low no pride:
He that is humble ever shall
Have God to be his guide.
I am content with what I have,
Little be it or much:
And, Lord, contentment still I crave,
Because thou savest much.
Fullness to such a burden is
That go on pilgrimage
Here little, and hereafter bliss,
Is best from age to age.
Then said their guide, “Do you hear him? I will dare to say that this boy lives a merrier life, and wears more of that herb called hearts-ease in his bosom, than he that is clad in silk and velvet.”
We could all use a bit more “hearts-ease” in our chests (I’ve always had a hard time saying the word “bosom” with a straight face). While closet diets and minimalist divestments may help, that indomitable Jew, Paul of Tarsus, has, I think, a better approach with a more certain outcome, regardless of how full (or empty) your closet might be:
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:4-7)
May the coming year bring you uncommon peace and deep heart-ease!