The best way I know to forge ahead with a life of Purposeful Simplicity is by doing it in community.
I don’t think any one thing has changed me as much as living and growing and learning in a community of Purposefully Simple people. Here are a few thoughts about this kind of community:
1. You have to seek it out.
Even if you’re surrounded by people modeling Purposeful Simplicity, you have to intentionally seek out these relationships. Usually purposeful simple people aren’t flashy, they aren’t broadcasting their life choices for others to see. They don’t do that because they don’t need outside affirmation to be at peace with where God has them.
I learn purposeful simplicity from a wide variety of sources, not just one person, and I look first in places where my path naturally crosses with others': my family, my church, my neighborhood, the kids’ home school friends. That way I’m already running into these folks and able to have snatches of conversation naturally without adding to an already full schedule. I think this is what it means to find your community: community is the people around you.
Rather than formally asking people to meet together or mentor you, use the little natural bits of time when you see each other. That’s living with purpose. The best way to draw people out is to ask lots of questions, and then listen. Share with someone, “I’m learning about this, how does it look in your life?”
2. Look in unlikely places
You will need to look in unlikely places for the kind of friends to help you on your journey. They typically aren’t attention-getters and they’re often overlooked, even in the Christian world. They’re humbly living for Jesus day by day. They may be way older than you or way younger or in a season of life wholly different than yours. They may not be eloquent or dress like you or create Pinterest-worthy quotes. But the great difference is they’re living it out. You can watch them, it’s in the little everyday choices. There’s much power in finding friends like this because it’s the little choices that make a life.
3. You may have to start it.
Have you considered that you may be the one to influence others toward a Purposeful Simple life? If not, think about it. Now, what I’m not saying is to be the broadcaster and the opinion-giver when no-one’s asking for your opinion. I’m saying, if you’re living as a learner and growing and being changed, and most of all if God is filling you up with peace and joy, then that’s attractive to other people. Look around at people who you can share what you’re learning with in different areas of life. Read the same blog posts. Listen to the same podcasts. And then discuss what you’ve learned. Take this journey together.
4. Remember where you’ve come from.
We don’t judge folks who aren’t in the same place on this journey, because we always remember where we’ve come from, and how far we still have to go. We spend much more time confessing and repenting of our own failings and learning new habits than in critically examining the people around us. In our Purposefully Simple community, we live as a fellow-learners, not as the teachers who have all the answers.
In this blog series I’ve become painfully aware, over and over, how much I need the very words I’m writing. Just ask my husband or friends. I don’t write as one who has arrived, but as one who’s learning, in fits and starts, right along with you. There’s freedom in understanding this rather than trying to hold together my image as a “teacher.”
5. You should be friends with all different people, but who influences you?
Of course we can’t surround ourselves with people who feel the same way about Purposeful Simplicity and shut out the rest of the world. We all have people in our life who think very differently. I think this is one of the biggest gifts and also obstacles to Purposeful Simplicity.
I can’t tell you how many friends I have who are caught up in the American rat race of more, busier, and better because they’re looking at their family, their neighbors, fellow parents at their kids’ school. They are looking at the wrong friends. If all you have is one kind of voice speaking to you, that voice will shape you. So don’t necessarily cut those friends out (unless the relationship is just plain unhealthy), but let the voices that you listen to be different.
6. You are going to have to open up.
If you want to make any progress on this journey, you’re going to have to be transparent. This comes easier for some of us than others. I just don’t think our learning turns into real growth unless we open up to other people about where we are and let them speak into our lives. That’s what God created the Church for. We can’t do this on our own.
I’d venture a guess that if you even opened up to some of the “wrong voices” I mentioned above, you may find more people like you than you realize, who deep down are weary and burdened by going with the flow, who long for the wide open spaces and fresh air of a Purposefully Simple life. It’s worth a try.
7. Finally, if you struggle to find a human community that feels the way you do right now, don’t despair. Pray for one, but in the meantime keep surrounding yourself with podcasts and blogs and books by people you look up to. Process them through writing or talking to just one person. In my life, you all, my blog readers, form part of my community. I love your comments, your own blog posts, your emails and our conversations about Purposeful Simplicity. I love learning from you.