I've been noticing a trend (probably it isn't recent, but I'm slow to catch up), particularly among homeschoolers, to promote simplicity in the home. Now, in general, I'm really not opposed to this. We all live with too much stuff, too much clutter, too many activities, too much noise... just too much. It's not a bad thing to want to remove the distractions to what is really important.
We actually live a pretty simple life ourselves. We don't sign our children up for endless activities; they have a lot of free time during the day. We don't have the newest in electronic gadgets. We do have enforced times of quiet in our home. I still have too much stuff, though. But even given all of this, my life doesn't feel simple. Some days it feels anything but.
I don't know about you, but when I think of simple, I think of peace and quiet and calm. I think of long uninterrupted times of being able to pursue interests. I think of quiet cups of tea with a good book. I see children listening quietly around a fireplace while a parent reads out loud. (See a trend? Quiet, tea, books.) Will it surprise you to know that this is pretty much what my life does not look like? Oh, there will be moments of quiet or everyone listening to a book or a stretch where I can read or sew, but not always.
We have a very complex existence and, admittedly, it is purely voluntary. But we are able to live this complex existence because we try to keep everything else as simple as possible. I think my difficulty with the whole concept is that I wonder what the end goal often is. Is it to make one's life beautiful and calm and peaceful? Or is it to give you enough margin so that you can be Jesus to others?
Reaching out to others, the least of these, doesn't always lend itself to simplicity. Sometimes it involves a host of complex issues that are not easily resolved. Sometimes it adds things to the schedule that one would rather not add. If there are children involved, it adds noise. It makes life messy and sometimes uncomfortable and is about as far from the idyllic scenes of my imagination as I can get.
If we are too busy to offer hospitality, to help others, to give radical love then we we need to simplify. And we simplify not to create more peace for ourselves, but to extend God's peace to others.