Good Friday morning ...
I love my bed. It is so-o-o-o comfortable!
My bed is not one of those beds that you "lie" down on. Actually, you climb up "onto" it. It's like three feet off the floor. Nonetheless ... each night it welcomes me and cushions me and cradles me to sleep in mere minutes. It's nice!
But it's not just my bed. It's the room as well. It's large and open, bright by day and cozy, dark at night. It's air conditioned in summer and heated in winter with a ceiling fan perfectly centered. It's beautifully decorated with wood blinds and colorful floor-to ceiling drapes, walls decked with framed art, hardwood oak floor scattered with Orientals. Thanks to Sandy, it's very comfortable, pleasant and quiet. Very nice!
So how is it that occasionally as I lie in my comfortable bed at home ... I miss my two-man tent in Tanzania? After all, it had a half-stuck zipper and noisy flaps; it had poor ventilation and a dusty floor and my Slumberjack sleeping mat and bag were forcibly crowded against the side wall. It had lots of character .. but not much of it was pleasant or what you would call comfortable. It was practical and served its purpose ... but was hot by day and cooled only by the sighing night winds after dark.
The thing about the tent was its simplicity. It was camo tan, with a mesh ceiling, two shock-cord poles, a rain fly, two mesh windows, a zippered flap with insect screen, a seamless floor, and six pegs. That may be why I occasionally miss my tent. No clutter, no fringes, no add-ons, nothing fancy ... just the essentials and barely those.
But I rather enjoyed it ... probably because I knew what awaited me when I returned home ... that pleasant, comfortable bed where I sleep so soundly every night!
There is something though about simplicity. Life is simple in Third World countries ... very simple. An African saying I learned on my very first visit to Tanzania in 2000 goes like this: "Americans have all the watches, but Africans have all the time." How true that is! We do have all the gadgets, the electronics, the digitized this and that; we have the Smartphones, the I-phones, the I-pods and the I-pads and all the software that accompanies them. We have the education and the expertise as well. But not too much time! Not much time at all!
Hence our relationships suffer; our marriages suffer; our children suffer; our readiness and willingness to help others suffers; our time alone suffers; and our moments with God suffer, too.
Rather sad, isn't it? And I don't have to go all that way around the world to discover this truth! But it sure is easier to see it and grasp it and determine to do something about it when I am in Tanzania. It becomes very obvious there ... because life is simple.
It isn't easy to be simple in the United States of America! Life is cluttered and busy and piled high with activities and things and places to be. Stores are packed with consumer items appealing to our every whim. Supermarkets have aisles of dog food and cereals and soaps where in Third World countries they may have but one choice of each.
One of the things those who travel to Third World countries experience upon their return is the struggle to incorporate some of that simplicity into our American style of living with so much. I know I get caught in-between ... seeing the sheer joy that comes with simplicity and, at the same time, wanting the convenience and pleasantness of having nice things ... knowing the stress and confusion that reigns with busy schedules and cluttered calendars and, at the same time, wanting the laid-back, easy-going schedule of those who wear no watches ... sensing the deep, abiding relationships among African villagers and knowing the distant miles that are somehow packed into the fifty feet (or less) between neighboring American houses.
It's tough to blend the two ... if it's possible at all. But somehow ... I try. For God has placed me where I am ... in a culture that exudes nice things and fancy gadgets ... and He has made me who I am with a heart that cries for deeper relationships. And somehow He can stir that mix and make it a winner. He always does ... we just never know how!
When we recognize the soul in our simplicity ... we discover abundant freedom.
"But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. [I Timothy 6:6-8]
"And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus." [Philippians 4:19]
Blessings on your weekend ... as you wrestle to simplify your life and build better relationships ...