“Simplicity” is a popular word these days. Books abound on how to live simply, frugally, without clutter, and in tune with the earth. Webster’s defines it as, “the state of being simple, uncomplicated, or uncompounded.” Charlotte Mason thought that simplicity was extremely important and held eternal consequences. She even wrote a Bible Study on the topic, stating its importance as the key to many things, including your child’s heart. She said, “the simple person can do anything with a little child; the unsimple loses the key and cannot force entrance into a child’s heart.”
How to Be Simple
But how to be simple? Surely this is more than cleaning out the clutter around the house, although this might help. Looking at simplicity as an inward reality that affects our outward lifestyle will help us understand this better. Mason tells us that simplicity is the same thing as the single eye. Do we have this “single eye”? And what even is it? Mason says:
“The answer is to be found, not in anxious enquiries into our motives and feelings, but in out-shining of the light in simple, humble, pleasant doing of that duty which comes next. By turning the light upon ourselves we produce dark lanterns. The most profound sense of our own unworthiness, abject humiliation, these are but forms of the self-consciousness with which a turning of the light upon ourselves, and so present a dark lantern to the world. We may know when the light shines out, because then we see other people. Before, men are to us ‘as trees walking’. It is not only our brother that the search-light is cast, for the pure in heart; the single of eye shall see God.”-Charlotte Mason, “Simplicity – A Bible Study”, Scale How Meditations
The single eye, simplicity, may be found in the simple, humble, pleasant doing of that duty which comes next. How are you doing with that? In my life, this train derails when I over-commit or over-schedule. As homeschool moms who follow the Charlotte Mason philosophy of education and living, we really don’t need all the dozens of extras that vie for our family’s time and attention. And if we are pursuing the Biblical idea of simplicity, we know that it isn’t our lifestyle we should be focusing on but rather on the life-giver Himself.
Simplicity and Humility
Simplicity and humility are linked together. Charlotte Mason says that humility is one with simplicity. In The Pursuit of God, A.W. Tozer says, “If we would find God amid all the religious externals, we must first determine to find him, and then proceed in the way of simplicity. Now as always God discovers himself to ‘babes’ and hides himself in thick darkness from the wise and the prudent. We must simplify our approach to him. We must strip down to essentials, and they will be found to be blessedly few. We must put away all effort to impress and come with the guileless candor of childhood.” (p. 18)
Getting Started with Simplicity
So, because simplicity is the single eye and we wish to be simple in order to work with children, what are some of the things we can do to work on this? Here is a list I developed after reading Mason’s words combined with Richard Foster’s Freedom of Simplicity and other authors on the topic.
1. Turn your attention to others and other things. Stop concentrating on yourself. Have an outward attitude. Teach your family to serve others.
2. Focus your field of vision by seeking first the kingdom of God. Make Bible reading and prayer priorities, however short or long this may be in your season of life.
3. Obey the Lord today. Not at some future time when we have this reformation of simplicity all planned out, but for this day.
4. Get up and keep going when you stumble and fall.
5. Be loyal. Mason says, “Bear in mind that we each carry that which is as priceless to a Christian as is her honor to a woman. Let us treasure our loyalty as our life, remembering it is the one jewel which a subject has to offer this King. The subject who is not loyal is as a subject, nothing: and this is never so true as when the subject is a Christian and the King is Christ.”
6. Keep a spiritual journal, a book of remembrances – a personal Ebenezer to look on every evening. This will help you remember what He has done, how far you’ve come, help with insight, and more. I have a 5-year journal with only a few lines per day but the daily habit has produced a shift in my outlook, directing me more towards the eternal through gratitude and a short recounting of God’s work in my world that day.
Simplicity is an Inward Reality
Finally, If we keep our thoughts on our “adorable Chief” and focus on Him, we will have that single eye which in turn allows us to be simple in the best sense of the word. And when the going gets tough, and it will, we can rest in the fact that it isn’t our power but it’s Christ’s power working mightily in us (Col. 1:29). Then this inward reality will begin to be evident in our outward lifestyle.
Teaching from Peace,
You can read about the single eye as it involves the will in this post.
My talk, Simplicity, gives a more in-depth treatment of this topic.
Thank you, Nancy. In addition to all you have said about simplicity and humility here, what a beautiful and timely reminder that joy and peace come to us by keeping our eyes on loving God and our neighbor and serving Him by serving others.