November 12, 2009
Duplicity, SchmuplicityBy Lisa Rieck
Okay all you rhyming buffs. Here's a word for your next limerick: duplicitous. That's what I've been thinking about lately, thanks to Mindy Caliguire's Soul Care guide titled Simplicity. Her extraordinarily helpful take doesn't pit simplicity against complexity but rather simplicity versus duplicity.
Simplicity, Caligure explains, is marked by a singular pursuit of Christ and his call on our life. And she insightfully points out that a singular pursuit of Christ may very well make our lives more complicated--not simpler. Take Noah, for one. There he is, quietly living his life, minding his own business, following God faithfully, when God comes to him and essentially says, "I'm going to destroy the earth, but I'll save you and your family. Here's the plan: build an ark in this desert big enough to hold you, your family and two of every living creature on the earth." And just like that, Noah's life got a whole lot more complex.
Living duplicitously, on the other hand, is being distracted by many pursuits: "The sin that so easily entangles," for one. Trying to impress others by dressing a certain way or decorating your house a certain way or driving a certain kind of car. Spending all your time working to "prove" your usefulness. There are, unfortunately, myriad ways to be duplicitous.
I'm noticing many in myself. Did I say that because I mean it or because I want that person to think of me in a certain kind of way? I wonder. Do I really like to run? I ask myself as I lace up my running shoes, or do I just want people to think of me as a dedicated athlete? And the classic, Friends are coming over so I better hide the stacks of mail and dust so that they think I'm the kind of person who always keeps things clean, even though no one can possibly keep up with the mail and dust unless they have no life besides cleaning.
The comparison game only makes it worse: Okay, God, I see you leading so-and-so into really meaningful ministry. That's great. I'm happy for her. Thrilled. But do you think you could do the same for me? Now? Before others start to whisper about whether or not I have any spiritual gifts at all? . . . And on and on it goes. It can be hard to discern when I'm being simplistic or duplicitous. Often it comes down to motive. As Chris Heuertz writes in Simple Spirituality, "Simplicity is best understood in evaluating how we hold things, not just what we do or don't hold."
I love the idea of simplicity; I deeply want my life to be a singular pursuit of God. I'm learning to make it more so. But--I'll be perfectly simple here--I have a long way to go. However, another book, Mudhouse Sabbath by Lauren Winner, is helping me learn the way. In a chapter on hospitality she talks about not just inviting people into our homes but inviting them into our lives, just as they are. "At its core," she writes, "cultivating an intimacy in which people can know and be known requires being honest [or simple, if you will]--practicing that other Christian discipline of telling the truth about where we live and how we got there." She continues with (duplicitous) sentiments that I can definitely relate to: "Often, just as I'd rather welcome guests into a cozy and cute apartment worthy of Southern Living, I'd rather show them a Lauren who is perfect and put-together and serene."
On many days, I strive to show people that put-together, serene, perfect Lisa. But in some moments, when I slow down enough to listen to the Spirit, I'm willing to let people in: to show them the simple truth--the mess, the struggles, the faults. And usually, I experience God's grace through those people as a result of letting the duplicity go.
A few more words from Lauren: "Like my apartment, my interior life is never going to be wholly respectable, cleaned up, and gleaming. But that is where I live." And that's where I live too. Where I'm trying to accept that I live, and trying to let others see that that's where I live. It isn't easy. It makes things messier. But mess, I'm learning, is where God lives too, the place where often we can most sense him near. So it's good, and hard. And simple, huh?