Thursday Themes is an ongoing series of posts focused on given topics or passages of scripture relevant to adoption, knowing God, and learning to live simply and love radically. Please feel free to tweet theme suggestions to me @MamaMcAfee or leave a suggestion in the comments section.
In the Live Simply series, we're exploring what it means to live simply in every aspect of our lives. Living simply is a way of life that radically redefines how you see the world and how you interact with it. It's almost never easy, but always rewarding. And at the end of the day, those who choose to pursue simple, I believe, will be far better people for it and will know God in a much deeper way than when complex got in the way.
Living simply is about making yourself available. Available to relationship. Available to the what is happening right in front of you.
In our Peace Corps training during the first two months of my years in South Africa, one of the things emphasized over and over again was greeting--greet properly and greet everyone. Fail to do that and one of your fellow villagers will write you off as the rude American who doesn't belong and shouldn't be here.
In black South African culture, greeting is what says to the other person--here you are, the person in front of me, and you are the most important person right now. Talking with you, acknowledging your presence in my day, hearing your stories, your woes, your joys. This is most important to me.
But this is hard for most Americans because our culture is time focused.
The most important is the person I'm supposed to be meeting right now. The most important is that thing I will be late to and those people who will be disappointed if I arrive late. The most important is being on time. I can't stop and talk to you right now because I cannot be rude to the people waiting for me.
I like the South African cultural concept. Right now, in this moment, I'm going to put aside my schedule, my to do list and be totally available to you. I'm going to listen to your stories and then I'm going to share my stories. You, right now, you in front of me are the most important person in the world, and I'm going to make myself available to you.
But I think there's a delicate balance to be maintained between the South African and the American.
I still believe in being on time to most things--appointments, school, work and the like. But I also believe in making myself available to the person who is in front of me. If I'm a little late to church, so be it. If I need to call Sue and tell her I'll be late to coffee, so be it. If I need to put off writing the blog post stirring in my brain, so be it. If I need to set aside the laundry, the dishes, the pressing errand, so be it. At this moment, you, the person in front of me, are the most important and I want to make myself available to you.
It's setting aside the complexity of the daily task list and choosing the simplicity of being available to others in the moment.
My father directs a senior residential community. (That's the very pc name. You might call it an old folks home which is the very non-pc term my father has dutifully trained me not to use.)
When he first moved to the community he currently directs, the first thing he did was to move the executive director's office from the cushy, less accessible office with the big window to a plain-jane, windowless office easily accessible to all residents.
The move was about availability.
He wanted to make sure every resident knew they could stop in at any time and have no-appointment-necessary access to the director. Why? Because for my father, his residents come before all the other director tasks--before budgeting, before marketing, before scheduling, before everything. They are most important to him.
Availability is also about being available to God. Being available for the little and the big things he might be asking you to do.
Often being available to God means being willing to step outside our comfort zone and do something we wouldn't normally do.
It might be having a conversation with someone who looks a little sketchy to you. It might be volunteering at the place with the least warm fuzzies and the most need. It might be opening your home up to a foster child or taking steps towards adoption. It might be taking a job or staying in a job that feels unrewarding and the will it takes to get through the day without complaint is almost impossible to muster. It might mean joining a church community where you can't possibly see how your needs will be met or how you will fit in.
Being available to God means laying aside all our complex, Moses-esque excuses of I can't speak in public and I'm not ready and send someone else, and being available to the simple faith and trust God asks of us when he leads us into the impossible.
Availability doesn't necessarily mean saying yes to every "will you" question posed to you, but I think it does mean saying yes to every "will you consider" question. I think it does mean I will honestly pray about it and seek God and make myself available to his leading. And it's not just saying you'll think about it and pray about it, but actually doing the thinking and the praying. The answer to the question may still come back "no" but at least you made yourself available to the possibility of the "yes".
Read other posts in the Live Simply series: