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People usually react negatively to the label: simple. It evokes a sense of naiveté and oversimplification that borders on avoidance and denial. We know the agony of being considered a simpleton. Somehow simple and simplistic have become identified, but there is a significant difference. To be simple is to model divinity. God is simple. Union with God is simple. Yet, neither is simplistic.
I picked up a card that read: “If you are searching for something monumental, you have closed your eyes because to see God is to see simple things. To see God is to see life in all things.” Dee Dee Robinson (adapted).
I looked at it again and I thought, “How many times have I overlooked the simple things of life because they were not sufficiently monumental for me?”
Although I try to be aware of my surroundings and situations, to be attuned to the presence of God in my life, I know I fall prey to the lure of distractions, concerns, and forays into a future I cannot control but feel I must.
I read and remember the words of the psalmist: “Be still and know that I am God.” But I get too antsy to integrate the reality.
When I give myself the treat of watching a squirrel take an estimate of the height of a branch, I know I am a squirrel in God’s kingdom. I can observe that creature gracefully leaping into the air, trusting the tiny branch would hold his weight and afford him a further journey along the breadth of the tree trunk, and know my own faith journey can take a similar route.
Am I equally willing to walk out on a limb to find nourishment for my soul? Can I see God in that simplicity? Can I view God’s gracious presence as I climb higher and higher? Do I believe God is taking each risky step right along with me?
As I contemplate the simple life our feline companion, Sir Cat, enjoys, I know an identical simplicity is mine, if I choose it. I, too, can stretch out on the floor of life and luxuriate in God’s love for me. I can relax in the profound joy I am good enough for God. What might appear to be a lackadaisical attitude at best, and laziness at worst, is actually total entry into godliness.
Do I stop to see God’s vigilance in the stance and prance of the herons and egrets that keep watch over the creek bed? Do I pay attention to the shorebirds who spread their wings in the face of the wind and delight in the breezes that tickle their feathers and dry the excess dampness into accurate aridity?
When my grandchildren were visiting, I became even more aware of the push and pull of technology, more aware of the need to be simple in the face of the complexity of a pushbutton world with its instant gratification. Without simplifying the matter and condensing it into a backward movement into the good ole days that were likely not so good, after all, I wanted to have them experience the wonder of fishing off our dock. I wanted them to spend a simple afternoon with pole in hand, to feel the sun’s warmth and the cooling breezes.
I wanted them to notice the schools of minnows twisting and turning as a unit. I wanted them to play in the orchestra of the fiddler crabs and exchange beady-eyed glances with the blue crabs. I wanted them to delight in the sudden scramble of a red-throated anole and the flight-stopping precision of a hummingbird.
In this world, there were no surfboards to wax, no cellphones to disrupt the silence, no throbbing thumbs texting messages that purported intimate communication but were nothing more than instant contact. In this world, what is simple is also monumentally lifegiving.
Some would say I need to get with the times. I need to take my head out of the clouds and recognize reality. I offer an alternate response. I want to present, and be present to, a world that is really real, a spiritual universe that is visible only to those who have the eyes to see, audible only to those who have the ears to hear, intelligible only to those who choose to contemplate its existence and enter its gracefulness—and know that what is truly monumental is truly simple.
I want to be bathed in the beauty of a baby’s toothless grin, a smile that is moist with innocence and total trust—and know God sees and pronounces it good.
I see a working mother getting a manicure at Walmart, a treat she has offered herself in the face of many days and weeks she has suffered without luxury. She is wreathed in the happiness of being a recipient and I know our Creator cherishes being the receiver of our giftedness, as well as being the giver of all gifts.
As we drive home along our dirt road, I am aware of each family whose residence we pass. They are simple, hardworking folks who greet each day with awe they are alive. We are a homey bunch. No one would call us sophisticated. But in simple ways, we have colored the world with beautiful gardens, cherished pets, and generous families. And none of it simply happened. All is the result of a loving response to God’s goodness. All is done with thanksgiving.
There is a unique sense of hospitality that perfumes the air. We are distinctly different people who have walked separate paths, yet we are integrally united. Although there are no bridge parties or coffee klatches, book clubs or golf sessions as bonding mechanisms, one can feel the caring compassion each household has for the other. Poetically, it could be said that when one fishes all of us eat.
It is a place that oozes the simple life. There is a divine vitality here that beckons all comers. I see God here—and the vision is monumental.
Fran Salone-Pelletier has a master’s degree in theology and is the author of “Awakening to God: The Sunday Readings in Our Lives” [a trilogy of scriptural meditations], lead chaplain at Brunswick Community Hospital, religious educator, retreat leader, lecturer and grandmother of four.