Though it feels like a different lifetime, a few decades ago my entire existence could be contained within the confines of a backpack and a blue Samsonite suitcase that was covered in bumper stickers of the artists that I had worked with, festivals I had attended, and places that I had visited. I experienced liberation, I was not shackled by what I owned, because I had few personal possessions to be responsible for. Something in that era possessed a certain enchantment—an unmatched simplicity that has, over the years, gradually slipped through my fingers. Perhaps you have felt simplicity slip through your fingers over the years as well, life in a consumeristic culture has a way of doing that.
Today, I am, by no means an individual of wealth, accomplishment, or prestige, but I find myself a homeowner, and our family, adequately settled into a three-bedroom townhouse encumbered with possessions—at least with more personal possessions than my suitcase of years before would have been able to accommodate. When an errand takes me into our basement or the bedrooms of our children, I am quickly reminded of how easy it has become for me to acquire things. Though we know our belongings will never bring fulfillment, I do believe there is an unconscious hunger in our lives – fed by a materialistic world that is always consuming – that believes material goods and objects will bring us happiness and comfort. Perhaps you have noticed the increased lure of products.
Consumerism’s Impact on Our Lives
The significant shifts in our personal, communal, and sacred spaces.
In the throes of our consumeristic culture, the pervasive desire for accumulation and an elevated quality of life has transcended mere material aspirations, it has seeped into the very fabric of every area and arena of our lives – including our spiritual lives. This consuming desire not only shapes our individual motivations but also significantly shifts and shapes our relationship with our faith and our view of God. Our inherited paradigm of consumerism and capitalism in the West has covertly but undoubtedly redefined the relationship that we have with our faith but also the church, especially around what we seek from these sacred spaces and how we engage with them. Consider how we talk within sacred spaces about being fed, finding the right programs, and having as many of our needs met by a community as we can.
Our identity, contentment, pursuits, and spirituality are not the only aspects of our lives that have been affected by this desire for more – our relationships have been shifted and shaped by consumerism and capitalism as well. We have lost the essence of community for the sake of community and we have so often become blind to the intrinsic beauty of the present moment. Amidst the constant pursuit of what could be possessed, experienced, or acquired, the profound beauty of the simple and the moment often goes unnoticed. The genuine connections we form with others become entangled in a web of consumeristic expectations, where relationships are commodified and evaluated by perceived utility rather than authentic connection.
Emerging within me has been this longing to recapture the enchantment of simplicity. As we navigate this all-consuming cultural terrain, we must hear the imperative to recalibrate our perspectives, redefining our driving values to rediscover the profound richness in the simplicity of each moment and the authenticity of our connections with one another. More importantly, we must rediscover what spiritual formation and sacred spaces look like when the persuasive influence of consumerism has been stripped away from our lives, with healthy practices and boundaries.
Leading a Quiet Life Blog
An Odyssey into the Profound Concept of Living A Quiet Life
This blog, Leading a Quiet Life (on Patheos), will be an exploration into what it means to lead a quiet life at a slower pace to discover a simple life and faith that embraces downward mobility in a chaotic world and church obsessed with excess. Rooted in the timeless wisdom of 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12, this blog unfolds as an odyssey into the profound concept of living a quiet life in a society that clamors incessantly for our attention. In 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12, to a church community in the midst of a society that clamored for their attention, Paul gives the followers of Jesus a challenge to “make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.” It is this value of simplicity that I want to transform who I am, what I have, and what I do.
“…make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody…”
1 Thessalonians 4:11-12, New International Version
Discovering how to recalibrate our perspectives
I invite you to come with me on this introspective expedition to discover simplicity as a bold and prophetic witness that swims against the relentless rip currents of our disposable and abundance-driven world. In the cacophony of the world around us, consumerism often drowns out the gentle whispers of tranquility, contentment, and even the still-small voice of God. In a loud and overloaded world, the ageless directive to lead a quiet life invites us to embark on a journey of rediscovery. As I personally and theologically pursue this voyage, I want to explore practices, theology, priorities, and paradigms that lead us back to the quiet life we all yearn for. I think our consumeristic approach to life has been tried and we have found it wanting and unsatisfying but we are trapped by it. As a husband, dad, doctoral student, and pastoral leader in both a residential program for those suffering from homelessness and a small rural church community, I invite you to follow along as we chart a course through the complexities of modern living, endeavoring to uncover the contentment and prophetic witness of leading a simple life.