“There’s no point in simplifying your life if you are steering toward an end point that doesn’t matter to begin with.” These words smacked me in the face when I read them this morning in the final chapter of Simplify: ten practices to unclutter your soul.
I am at the bedside of my younger sister as I write this. She is in her final season. Everything that needed doing has been done and she is prepared to exit this planet. Holding her hand, rubbing her feet, brushing her hair, telling her we love her, raising her head so she can cough and one or two other little kindnesses is all we can do for her now. And we do it with joy because we love her.
Hybels, as a pastor, has sat at hundreds of bedsides just like this. “Here’s “what never happens.” none of the dying people have asked him to run home and fetch their trophies, to withdraw all their cash and bring it to them in a large suitcase, to park their BMW outside the window where they can see it, or to print off their companies latest financial statement just so they could see it one last time.
“When people are nearing death, do you know what they want to talk about?” Hybels asks. “Two things: whether or not they are right with their families and whether they are ready to meet their Maker. One hundred percent of the time, these are the conversations I have with people in hospital beds.”
“You simplify your life for reasons that matter to eternity: to give clarity, purpose and power to the things that matter most in this world.” Most of this chapter is spent outlining the futility of “chasing the wind” — Solomon’s words from Ecclesiastes. Hybels lists seven ways we become wind chasers:
1.Physical Health — not that he is against a healthy lifestyle. If you’ve followed this blog you will know that he recommends diet and exercise as a great stress reducer. But he brings startling perspective when he says, “My lawn will outlive me.” Ouch! “Pinning our hopes on longevity is not the key to a simplified and satisfied life.”
2. Education — let it be a means to an end (a soul-satisfied, purposeful, simplified life) not an end in itself or it will leave you with an empty soul and an emptier wallet!
3. Pleasure — there’s a reason college frat parties end. People grow up.
4. Work or Accomplishments — “An obsession with your career–even a career at home–is chasing the wind.” Workaholism will never satisfy and it will rob your relationships of precious years you cannot relive.
5. Wealth — Hybels interviewed Bill Gates and asked why he shifted from making money to sharing money. Gates said he woke up one day and asked himself, “What’s the point?” He knew he could keep amassing billions but for what purpose? He and Melinda decided to switch gears and their philanthropy is literally changing the world.
6. Sex — “There are people who…try to fill the void in their lives by having sex with lots and lots of people. It corrodes their souls and leaves them empty. As the great theologian Mick Jagger said, ‘I can’t get no satisfaction.'”
7. Fame — Michael Jackson. Kurt Cobain. Elvis Presley. Bill Cosby. Marilyn Monroe. Brittany Spears. Princess Diana. Do I need to say anything more?
As you look at your current life and think about simplifying, Hybels suggests you run every decision for change through these three filters:
1. Satisfaction: Will it bring true satisfaction?
2. Purpose: Does it align with God’s purpose for my life in this season?
3. Significance: Does it help me lead a life of significance?