Live Simply: The Gray Spaces

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 choosing to live in the gray spaces of life.

Yes, I know living in the gray sounds far more complex than living in the black and white. Living in the gray is not easy and can often be very confusing, but this is where I remind you "simple" in our context does not mean "easy".

Here's the black and white:

Tax collectors are corrupt. Tax collectors swindle and skim off the top. Tax collectors we do not associate with.

Adulterers are sinners. Adulterers have abused the gift of marriage. Adulterers have sinned against God and their bodies. Adulterers must be stoned.

Samaritans are half-breeds. Samaritans do not worship in the right place. Samaritans belong in their place and we go around. Samaritans we do not speak to.

Women are to cook and clean and serve. Women are to provide and give and make sure men's needs are met. Women are not to sit at the feet of prophets.

Perfume is expensive and to be used sparingly. Perfume not used is better sold and used for noble causes. Perfume is not to be wasted.

Children are to be seen and not heard. Children have their place. Children should not be a nuisance to the important.

Lepers must be separate. Lepers must call out out to warn non-lepers of their approach. Lepers must not come near enough to touch.

And here's the gray:

While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with him and his disciples (Matthew 9:10).

But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground (John 8:6-8)

Now he had to go through Samaria...When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” (John 4:4,7)

Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”

“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:40-42)

A woman came to him with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, which she poured on his head as he was reclining at the table...Jesus said to them, “Why are you bothering this woman? She has done a beautiful thing to me" (Matthew 26:7,10).

Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these" (Matthew 19:14).

Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!”Immediately he was cleansed of his leprosy (Matthew 8:3).


The gray spaces are where compassion lives.

When we get so entrenched in the black and white, compassion is near impossible. Compassion is about empathy and seeing the other person for where they are not where we think they should be. Compassion requires us stepping outside of our own reality of black and white and challenging ourselves in the gray--challenging our cultural stances, challenging our traditions, challenging our worldviews and being willing to see life in a different way.

When I'm living in the black and white, I cannot see the needs of another person. I cannot be compassionate or understanding or very loving.


I have the hardest time living in the gray spaces when I perceive someone else as being close-minded or having a smaller worldview than my own. I have a hard time showing them love and empathy and a hard time being willing to step outside myself in order to meet them where they're at. I challenge and I push and I bully because really you should see the world the way I do.

And then I think about what Paul said about becoming all things to all people (1 Corinthians 9:19-23) and realize he didn't only morph into one who no longer lived under the law but also morphed into one living under the law (morphed while retaining his own freedom from being under the law). And I think about how confusingly hard that is but how wonderfully rewarding it just might be if I could morph and live in the gray spaces too.


How do we then live in the gray spaces?

By choosing to die to ourselves everyday and live for Christ.

When we die to ourselves, we put our opinions, our understandings, aside and challenge ourselves to see the world before us from other perspectives and to bring others alongside us in the gray. We choose compassion over our own rightness, and maybe in choosing compassion realize our own rightness wasn't so right.

This is a hard, hard thing for me because I believe highly in my own rightness.

Setting aside my own rightness, choosing compassion and humility, is a very unnatural path. But I have to remind myself that other paths are worth being explored. And really, at the end of the day, in putting aside my own rightness, I might just discover the rightness, the truth, Jesus was pointing me to all along.


The gray spaces of life can be a challenge to walk in. They may take us outside our comfort zones. They may ask us to seek to understand a worldview we see as fundamentally wrong. They may force us to have compassion on those it's not so easy to have compassion on. They may require us to lay aside our own rightness for higher truths.

But I believe living simply asks us to be in the gray spaces more often than the black and white spaces, and the rewards of living in the gray spaces means deeper and more beautiful relationships abounding with truth rather than rightness.


Read other post in the Live Simply series:

An Introduction

Being Available