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Cultivate the deep, cultivate the simple

cultivate

“Life is deep and simple, and what our society gives us shallow and complicated.” Fred Rogers said that. As in Mister. As in the fire engine red cardigan and the songs about neighbors. And I’ve been ruminating on those words this past month.

Complicated. How often do I use that word in my daily life? How often do I run through my days living “busy,” living “complicated”?

For Lent I’m thinking about deep simplicity versus shallow complexity. What does it mean to cultivate a deep and simple life, to weed out the things that—in their seeming importance—seduce me into believing their complications are necessary?

Isn’t our culture full of those sorts of weeds? The ones we allow to grow into our lives simply because they seem that they ought to be valuable? More activities for our kids, more work, more material consumption, more commitments in church and school! And soon we don’t recognize what we value anymore, because all it seems we have time to value is our own time management.

What is deep? What is simple? The answer to those questions almost always points toward what is good.

I’m also learning to ask what is tricking me in its own complexity. There is much in life that seems important but is actually shallow, undeserving of my desires, underserving of my time.

Since this past summer, beginning around the time I miscarried last June, I committed myself to stripping out the parts of my life that were overwhelming me. Most of them had to do with my writing career. I asked myself what I really love about being a writer. My answer was this: I love creating something that is rich and beautiful, offering it as a gift to others.

Then I compared that with what I spent most of my time doing: social media, self promotion, keeping up with the blogging requirements of what authors are supposed to do be noticed and valued. And I realized I was tired. I wanted to write more simply. I hadn’t been doing the social media circus act because doing so was actually providing me a salary. I was doing it because I was supposed to.

I decided I would make a conscious effort to write more intentionally and let myself write slowly, especially while my kids are small. I took a summer break from blogging, came back in the fall in the early stages of pregnancy, and have taken my time ever sense.

It would be really nice for me to say: And since that choice my blog readership has grown! (That wouldn’t be true.) Or, now I’m inspired to write the next great American novel! (Nope.) Or even, now I have the energy to dust off my collection of poetry and actually send it out to journals. (Not that either.) But it has given me is permission to rest, permission to go to sleep early, to read, permission to play with my kids without social media demands hanging over my head.

It’s also—slowly—given me permission to not work like crazy to turn myself into something impressive. I want to believe that I don’t have to be important in my writing career to live into my calling. I’m learning to believe that.

I want to cultivate the simple and the deep in my ordinary life. I want to be present for real people in my physical life. I want to serve my church and community. I want to be a good friend, a mom who isn’t constantly busy, constantly distracted.

This Lent I took Facebook and Twitter off my phone. I’m not forgoing those things. I’m just practicing life with their incessant reminders that I need to be online. I want to make it simpler. I’m preparing for a baby to come in April. And there are real things to do. Blankets to wash, minivans to shop for, evenings to sit still and feel little baby wiggling around inside.

Last week my pastor preached on the Transfiguration and quoted NT Wright:

“How can you live with the terrifying thought that the hurricane has become human, that the fire has become flesh, that life itself came to life and walked in our midst? Christianity either means that, or it means nothing. It is either the more devastating disclosure of the deepest reality in the world, or it’s a sham, a nonsense, a bit of deceitful play-acting. Most of us, unable to cope with saying either of those things, condemn ourselves to live in the shallow world in between.”

There’s the word again: shallow. As humans, we most often train ourselves to choose the shallow. It hurts less. And in order to make ourselves feel valuable, we shape the shallow to look important, complicated. Shallow lives are dangerous things.

And then there’s Jesus. We who believe in him are the people who believe in the hurricane turned human, in the fire become flesh. How far are we willing to walk into this faith of ours? Are we willing to trust in the deep reality that leads us out of shallow complications and into the rich simplicity of Jesus?

Here’s our question: What will we cultivate this season of Lent? What are we drawing ourselves nearer to? What are we discarding?

Can we choose simplicity over the loud raging of our busy, performance-driven lives? Now that’s a question.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



  • Caroline Starr Rose

    This post is much deeper and more lovely than anything I have to say, but I’m still gonna say it: What you’ve written here (and what you shared at Deeper Story about getting over yourself) really resonates with me. I’ve proclaimed 2015 the year to write smart and not scared. Your approach is a beautiful example of this.

  • I love this. Thank you. I am trying to let go of importance-especially my own-this season (which I suppose will last my lifetime.) I love the thought of cultivating simple and deep.

  • Katie Noah Gibson

    So much food for thought here, Micha. Deep and simple. (And lovely.) Thank you.

  • There is a lot of life and freedom in these words “It’s also—slowly—given me permission to not work like crazy to turn myself into something impressive. I want to believe that I don’t have to be important in my writing career to live into my calling. I’m learning to believe that.” And I’ll just say that it’s hard to believe that most days, and even harder to put them into practice. There are so many demands and so much conventional wisdom fighting against those words.

  • “The rich simplicity of Jesus” sounds so inviting and beautiful. Thank you for this.

  • I love that you are being honest and authentic…writing because it’s God gift to you and others, not out of expectation or duty or keeping up with the bloggers (instead of the Joneses!). I am new to the blogging world (initially started to just keep in touch with people that came to retreats I directed) and was starting to feel pressure, my own internal expectations of shoulds and to publish something weekly, to meet some goal in my mind. I’m slowing down now…letting God be God and using me for whatever purpose, in all of the varied work I do. And it’s more peaceful. Enjoy those kids and the new baby….that’s God’s gift for you now. Jodi (soulfullyyou.wordpress.com)

  • I love the ways you’re taking deep breaths in your life. You inspire me, dear Micha.

  • What a crazy world that we’re living in when we have to give ourselves permission to do what’s right for us? The very moment we slow down (to rest, to read, to play with our kids); we know we’re doing what’s right. Struggling through this with you.

  • Ann Ehlert

    Thank you for sharing your heart. It’s always encouraging and somehow lines up with what I am learning. So grateful! This year I’m learning to quit living out of obligation. 🙂

    http://annehlert.blogspot.com/2015/01/i-want-to-be-quitter.html?m=1

  • pastordt

    Oh, Micha! You NAILED it here. Thank you, thank you. Prayers and blessings for all of this – waiting for little one #3, building quality family and community experiences, AND writing, deeply and truly. YES, please.

  • Deena Marie

    Thank you for validating my thoughts lately. For lent I am learning to give myself the grace Jesus gives me. I went through your season 14 years ago when we lost a baby, but I was too busy with the other 4 and Grandma’s problems to give myself that rest. Now as an empty nester I am finally learning to allow His grace and mercy to be new every morning.

  • Bind My Wandering Heart

    I love this, it is so challenging and something that had definitely been on my heart recently. Slowing down, slowing my pace so that I can cultivate deeper relationships with people and experience more of God’s lavish grace. Thank you so much for writing this post.

  • Lissy Clarke

    And your example and effort in these things is just the leadership and encouragement we desperately need. Well done.

  • love this so much!! thank you thank you thank you 🙂