Friday, May 4, 2018

Simplifying Faith

Post by: Kristan Marsden

I am on a mission to simplify my life. I’ve always been someone who appreciates tidiness, order and routines. But somewhere along the line, I’ve begun to feel trapped by a packed calendar, excessive “stuff” and a perceived to-do list I could never hope to complete. I’ve been intentionally applying the concept of simplicity to several areas of my life. It began with paring down my family’s schedule, focusing on the things that enrich our lives and learning to say no to the rest. Now I’ve moved on to all the “stuff.” I’ve been purging cabinets, closets and toy bins. The idea behind simplicity is removing the excess to focus on the things that truly spark joy. As I watch all the “stuff” leave my house, my calendar and my consciousness, I find myself wondering: Can the idea of simplicity be applied to faith?

It’s a tough time to navigate as a Christian. So many important social, political and scientific issues surround us everyday and it feels impossible to respond in a Christ-like way to all of them. How would Jesus carry himself in the world we live in? I had a WWJD bracelet back in middle school just like everyone else did, but now I’d really like to know! Seriously, what would Jesus do about all this crazy stuff going on in the world? Countries don’t agree, communities don’t agree, friends and families don’t agree. Christians certainly don’t agree.

Maybe this is where simplicity comes in. Maybe the key to finding common ground as a church, a community, even a country is to strip away the distractions and keep our eyes focused on the most basic Christian principles. Second Corinthians 11:3 puts it this way, “But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your mind will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ.”

I attend a bible study with an amazing group of women. They happen to all be Catholic, except for me. We seek to understand each other and many of our conversations have been around different practices and traditions within our respective churches. At first, I thought this was a strength of our group. We were educating each other and accepting different points of view. I’ll admit, however, that I was growing a little tired of being the “odd man out.” It started to feel like we spent most of our time discussing the differences in our faith.

One woman in my bible study is an ER physician at a children’s hospital. At a recent meeting she told us that she has never lost a child in her care, but that fear is something that haunts her constantly. She told us that when she arrives at work, she sits for a minute in her car and prays. She asks God to guide her hands, to help her use her knowledge to treat her patients effectively. She asks God to work through her.

Shortly after this conversation, I found myself sitting in my own car praying. I recently became a CASA volunteer and had my first court date. CASA volunteers advocate for the best interests of children involved in child abuse and neglect cases. Part of the role is attending court hearings and making recommendations to the judge based on the information I’ve gathered. Heading to my first court hearing, I was nervous. I was afraid I would not be able to articulate what I needed to say to effectively advocate for the child. So, I sat in my car at the courthouse and prayed. I asked God to give me the words to help this little girl, to work through me to better her situation.

Embracing one of the simplest Christian beliefs is where we found our common ground. At the core of our faith, we both seek a personal relationship with Jesus and, without hesitating, turn to God when the tasks we must do feel too big for us alone. Strip away all the traditions, the denomination-specific teachings and there you have it: Christ lives and works within us. Simple.

I’ve heard the bible described as so deep a theologian could drown in it, yet shallow enough that a child could wade through it. This is so true! As I continue my quest to remove the distractions from my life and focus on what is truly important to me, I will continue to study the bible and its complexities. But I will also focus on its simplicity. 

Kristan spends her days living and learning with her two young daughters, Shay and Grace. In her downtime, you’ll find her running (preferably with friends), skiing, struggling through the occasional yoga class and escaping to the mountains every chance she gets. As a teacher taking time off to raise her own kids, she enjoys volunteering in the Children’s Ministry as well as writing about her experiences as a parent and educator. She and her husband, Britton, have been members of BUMC since 2011.

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