Simple Ain’t Easy

As we continue to observe the Lenten season, we encourage you to join us in this week’s daily reflection.

I wish that I could say this was earth-shattering stuff.

My tendency is to make whatever I’m involved in appear more complex than it really is so that maybe I appear smarter or deeper or more interesting. But there’s no way to do it with this.

As you may know, Chris, Trevor & I have adapted this Lent calendar to use as a guide through the season. Some days I’m doing great; others I follow very poorly. But one thing it’s not is complicated. Just look at some of the suggested daily activities so far:

Doing some chores
Saying you’re sorry to someone
Going for a walk
Fasting from a hobby

not-so-easy-buttonNot really a brain buster in the bunch. But in spite of its simple nature, the calendar has been a difficult one to keep up with.

If this is so simple, why isn’t it easier?

For years I have clung to the words of Jesus in Matthew 22. Just when the Pharisees thought they could trap Jesus by asking him an impossible question — What’s the most important commandment (surely they’re all important, right?), Jesus answers back in a brilliant and straightforward way:

“You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.” This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments. – Matthew 22:37-40

What an amazing answer. All of the OT law and prophetical instruction boiled down into 2 simple phrases. I love it. And he’s right. What problem or situation could not find its answer within those 2 phrases? Following Christ really comes down to some pretty simple directives.

So if it’s so simple, why do I find it so difficult? Although I have clung tightly to those 2 commandments for so long, they are the 2 most arduous tasks in my life. Some days I feel like I am doing them well, others are much less successful. And I wake up daily faced with the huge challenge of following these 2 elementary principles. Why is this so hard?

As the famous jazz musician Thelonious Monk said when asked how jazz seemed to come so easily to him, he replied, “Hey man, simple ain’t easy.”

There are times when it appears others are getting this whole thing so much easier than I am. I feel like others must be so much holier than me or smarter or more patient or have more faith than me. Surely I’m the only one struggling so much.

But this is one of the things Lent does for me. It reminds me we’re all in the same boat. None of us like giving up the things we love. Giving of ourselves is not always easy. We all find struggle even in the most basic parts of this life.

So my prayer today is to give myself a break. You should too. No matter how you’ve done with Lent so far, keep going. Let’s all work on denying ourselves – whatever that looks like for you — and loving God and each other the best way we can today. Keep working even though it’s difficult.

Because hey, man,  simple ain’t easy.

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