On September 13th, as I arrived at the airport to begin my second year as a missionary, I was hit with a dilemma that seems to affect many travelers – my suitcase was too heavy. It was fifty-seven pounds. The weight limit was fifty. I remember being frustrated because I had literally sat on my suitcase at least twice to get it zipped up and to fit all of my stuff into it. I also had put only clothing in my big suitcase, while I had put books and shoes and heavier things into a carry-on bag. That meant that I had fifty-seven pounds of just clothing. I remember feeling guilty as I tried to shove some extra clothes into my carry-on bag. I felt silly as I tried to figure out which item of clothing was the heaviest. It wasn’t as if I could just move some shoes or a few books. So I moved long sleeve t-shirts and a couple sweaters, and some smaller things that I could shove into cracks and crevices of my carry-on. I had to re-weigh my bag twice to get it to be the right size. I felt awkward and embarrassed as I realized that I should have weighed my bag at home. Isn’t that what scales are for? But I had just assumed that because it was only clothing, there was no way my bag could be overweight. I guess I was wrong.
The other day, I went through my closet again to see how I could simplify my life. I don’t need fifty-seven pounds of clothing, especially as a missionary. As I was doing this, I remembered that I did the same exact thing last year before I began my missionary year. Somehow, even in the course of a year of missions, I had accumulated all of this extra clothing. Then I realized something about simplicity. Simplicity can’t just be something where I go through my closet every year and get rid of clothing. It can’t be something where I still continue to buy clothing at the same rate, so that at the end of each year I get rid of some clothes from the year before. If I am going to truly embrace simplicity, it has to be a lifestyle, not just a moment. Going through my clothing once a year and getting rid of things is not simplicity, it’s called updating my closet. And sure, getting rid of things that I don’t need is maybe noble, but not if I replace them with more things that I don’t need that might be more in fashion. Buying a new pair of jeans and then getting rid of an old pair is not truly simplicity. That’s just being American. There’s nothing radical about that.
I’ve realized that my mindset in simplifying is often, “If I get rid of this, then I can buy something newer and nicer.” Instead of, “I should get rid of this so that I can glorify God by being more simple.” Simplicity becomes the mask rather than the intention.
I’ve been thinking a lot about the wild flowers in Matthew chapter six – “Why are you anxious about clothes? Learn from the way the wild flowers grow. They do not work or spin. But I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was clothed like one of them.” – Matthew 6:28-29. I hope that I can learn to be as simple as these wild flowers, to really be clothed by the Lord and His love, instead of storing up earthly treasures in my closet.