The older I get, the simpler things look.
I used to love complexity. All the words, diagrams, contingencies, choices. Now I love that my wardrobe has come down to one basic uniform—black shirt, jeans, alternating pairs of shoes. And I love that I’m caring less what anyone thinks about my fashion choices. I’m convinced that the things in life that remain complicated are less important than things that don’t. And becoming aware of the complexity to which I remain attached is one way of knowing where my stone is not yet smooth.
Jesus was a master of simplicity. Pared everything down to the fewest possible words. An image or metaphor. We imagine God’s kingdom to be filled with laws, rules, doctrine, rituals, good works. Those are all parts but not the point. Jesus boils it down to one thing. Love. Of God and each other—which in turn become one thing in the act of loving. Seek that and all else will be added. Live that and all else is commentary. And when we do, what does that feel like? Just one thing.
If I say the word we attach to that feeling, you’ll probably shrug, maybe roll your eyes, yawn. Think you’ve heard it all before, a cliché. How to get across the impact of this word? Maybe look at it’s opposite, the effect of its opposite.
Have you noticed people are getting angrier? Anger is affecting every part of our lives, personally and societally. But anger is a top level emotion always driven by something deeper. Expectation, insecurity, envy, victimization sum into a sense of entitlement that fuels our anger. The belief that we’re owed something, the anger when we don’t get it is the complex mix that is the opposite of the simplicity of gratitude.
The one thing to which Jesus is pointing feels like gratitude. Gratitude is what love feels like. We can’t be grateful and angry at the same time. Or insecure, envious, victimized. Gratitude embraces the humility of receivership, acknowledges a gift we could not give ourselves.
We can’t manufacture gratitude. We become it when we let go of the complexity of entitlement. It’s that simple. And that difficult at the same time.