I started chapter 11 of The Life You’ve Always Wanted on my way to work a couple weeks ago. The chapter is about an “undivided life” accomplished by “the practice of reflection on Scripture.” Since I was reading on the train, I only got a couple pages in, which means I’m still at the part of the chapter where Ortberg discusses some of the issues we all face in reaching that undivided life – in this case, “double-mindedness” and a combination of multiplicity and duplicity. This book is getting better with every chapter, and even though I’m only five pages in and not even yet at the “meat” of this one, I’m already bookmarking, flagging, and underlining a whole slew of things I could stand to examine in my own life.

Double-mindedness, in Ortberg’s definition, is the term for the mental tug of war between good and not-so-good that goes on in all of us. We want to volunteer more, but we don’t want to give up our TV time. Or we want to donate more to causes we care about, but only if we make more money. He defines multiplicity and duplicity as “a life marked by ambivalence – pulled and pushed” and “the reasons we give for doing something and the real reasons why we are doing it” respectively. And then he goes on to say that all of these things are the enemies of simplicity. And simplicity should be the goal of every Christian – simplicity in this case being living for “one thing” and that thing being God.

Right away the language Ortberg was using caught my attention, because “simplicity” is a term I try to apply to my life over and over and over again even if it slides off almost as soon as I stick it on. Simplicity is something I’ve been actively after for at least the past year now, but it’s fair to say that I suffer from all of the above. And identifying all of my areas of double-mindedness, multiplicity, and duplicity, and then actually *overcoming* them has been a step by step process. Usually, I have to force myself to act QUICKLY in a moment of inspiration before I settle back into my day-to-day routine. And my steps towards achieving simplicity start with simplifying first in the home. Which means for the past year, I’ve been in the process of weeding out all of the physical baggage I carry with me that not only distracts me, takes up my time and money, but keeps me from actually getting out there and LIVING the life God may have planned for me.

When Steph and I decided to downsize as part of our Total Money Makeovers and move to a smaller apartment in Greenpoint (bad decision, btw), the end goal was simplicity. I would sell all those things I didn’t need. Donate what I couldn’t sell. And then live as “simply” as possible to save money, pay off my debt, and then do all the amazing things that would come with living debt free – going back to school for nutrition and wellness, giving above and beyond what I’m currently giving, taking vacations, etc. In some ways it worked because the apartment was so small that we had no choice but to live “simply” and we were both able to regulate our sleep schedules, squeeze in exercise time in the morning, save up money, and pay down debt. That lasted for three months until the great bed bug disaster of 09 hit and everything went out the window.

When we made the decision to move back “home” to beautiful South Brooklyn (where we’d been living for the past three and a half years), we both wanted the end goal to be simplicity – get away from the all the “scene” in Greenpoint and get back to a quiet neighborhood with trees, flowers, kids playing outside, and tomatoes and basil plants in the backyard. I wanted to find my peaceful Sundays again to catch up on my small group books, journal what I’m learning and what I need to work on, visit the farmer’s market, and make a menu for the week ahead. And since we lost all of our furniture to those evil little bugs, we’d definitely be living “simply” for the first few months.

The bed bug crises (seriously, it was a crises) forced me to reevaluate the way I live and question how much of my living in Greenpoint was simple on the surface (having a “sleeping closet” just big enough for a full size bed instead of a nice, large bedroom like I’d had in Windsor Terrace for instance) and how much of it was the true simplicity of living a life focused on serving God. I think in moving from Windsor Terrace to Greenpoint I took steps towards simplicity. It was nice to realize just how many of my things I could sell and not miss (and make a nice chunk of change off of in the process!) and clear some of the physical clutter out of my life (I don’t think “simple” living means we have to sell all the things we own. In my case, doing a clean sweep of the apartment definitely helped me reprioritize though). And, because I have a tendency to make my home my haven, moving from a spacious apartment I LOVED on Prospect Park to a small apartment with a view of the highway that could be best described as just “charming” was a step of faith. I had to prioritize just to squeeze into that place.

Moving to Ditmas Park has been an even bigger step in that direction because it’s shown me that simplicity is about what’s in my heart just as much as it’s about what’s in my apartment. God knows me inside and out – He knows I like room to stretch out in, clean air to breathe, flowers and trees outside my window, and easy access to organic local foods. He even went the extra mile and surprised me with a laundry room (he must’ve heard my silent prayers with that one ;).) He’s shown me that I can have a big, beautiful apartment (thank you, God!) and still live simply if my reason for living is Him.

So this time as I’m slowly filling this apartment back up, I’m leaving room for simplicity. Yes, I want a full size bed and a nightstand with a lamp and a little “prayer chair” and table for my Bible in the corner of my room (and that NEVER would’ve fit in my “sleeping closet” up in Greenpoint), but this time I’m hoping I can recognize that my security is in GOD and not in having a perfectly decorated apartment. And I hope that if God calls me to leave this apartment at some point and go somewhere else, I’ll be ready to answer because my life won’t be just about what I can get for myself, but what I can give others as well. Even if it means losing the comfy full size bed I can’t wait to buy (and I’ll be honest… that’s not always an easy idea for me to swallow).


Resource: Generation Church “Take it All” podcast 06/11/2009 – The theme of this sermon was that the reality of God is not just information, it’s impartation. The pastor has a “unique” delivery to be sure, but stick with it. This totally ties in with what Ortberg talks about in the second half of Chapter 11, which is that the path to simplicity is in reading and understanding Scripture. And that the real purpose of the Bible isn’t just information, but transformation of God’s people. If we read the Bible with the right hearts and minds we will continually be transformed into the people we’re meant to be. From there it follows that we would live out what we’ve learned in Jesus in our daily lives – imparting Christ’s love on others. I was listening to this right after reading Chapter 11, and I heard so many similarities between what Ortberg and this pastor are saying and ended up really enjoying this podcast. 🙂