A prayer for a simpler life

David Epps

About a year ago, during a morning devotion time, I said, “Lord, I think I would like to live a simple lifestyle.”

Now I had been reading during Lent about several monks, particularly Eastern Orthodox monks, and especially those that had a history either on Mount Athos in Greece or in Russia/The Soviet Union. It seemed to me that these men were less distracted by the concerns of the world and focused on living a simple but grueling lifestyle that was dedicated to God.

My life has always been busy. Some of that is by calling. A pastor/priest, at least this one, is on call 24/7 for 365 days of the year. Even on vacation, I take calls from members of the parish. I have always done that. The only time that I am away from the phone is when I am out of the country, which isn’t often.

Moreover, I almost have never confined myself to simply doing parish work. I have been involved in denominational activities, taught karate, served on the local boards of groups like the American Cancer Society, have been a law enforcement chaplain for five agencies over a course of 25 unbroken years, including the Atlanta Division of the FBI, and a chaplain for a fire department. I even graduated from a police academy and was sworn as a deputy sheriff.

I was a member (chaplain, of course) for the Georgia Defense Force, have been involved with veterans organizations — including the Marine Corps League, having served in leadership at the local, state, and regional levels, am a member of a motorcycle club, and … well, you get the idea.

When the kids were at home, I attended their sporting events and have endeavored as much as possible to do the same with the grandchildren. In addition to that, I spent two years in hospital training courses and, while in the ministry, picked up a couple of graduate degrees.

I could go on but I’m getting weary just remembering all this stuff and, besides, it’s uninteresting and boring to most readers.

So, I prayed to simplify my lifestyle. I do not know what I had in mind. I suppose I had a fantasy that, one day, I would wake up and life would be … simpler.

I think I am headed in that direction but it’s not what I had in mind. For one thing, we are downsizing. We are about to put our home on the market and move into a home a third the size of our current home.

We have been in our current home more than 28 years. Do you know how much stuff a family accumulates in nearly three decades? It’s a lot!

We have four bedrooms in the current house. The house we are building has one. We are giving away most of what we own. Literally.

For the first 10 years of out married life we had practically nothing. In fact, when we moved into an unfurnished house that was owned by my in-laws, after seven years of marriage, we owned a desk, a chair, and a mattress. Now, after 47 years of marriage, I find that we have way too much to take with us. This is painful.

I love books, always have. I must downsize my library as well. That is really painful. I find that I have way too many clothes, some I have kept for “when I lose weight and can get back into them.”

Well, there’s no room for those now. I have given away all my books, tapes, and gear associated with my past life in karate, which lasted about 30 years. I have been a collector of t-shirts. Eighty percent of those must go.

I have surrendered all my leadership positions and volunteer concerns outside of the church, the diocese, and the military chaplaincy. I will continue to be a member of the Marine Corps League and will ride my Harley as long as I can.

Thanks to our politicians, I rarely watch the news these days. People are not listening to each other anyway, just shouting to be the loudest voice. I will not miss that very much.

I have discovered that a simpler life means dealing with all the clutter of life and disposing of it. Even the worthy concerns and endeavors of the past. When I moved to Georgia in 1983, I was the youngest and least experienced minister who spoke at the Peachtree City Community Good Friday service.

Now, if I calculate correctly, I am the oldest and the most experienced pastor/priest to speak this past Good Friday. I am no spring chicken anymore. But I have learned over the years that life is more than busyness and activity, more than accumulating stuff, and even more than accomplishment.

A simpler lifestyle is one I have never had. I am not retiring, at least in the near future, and I want these years to be among my best. I want them to be filled with meaning, relationships, and peace. I want to “finish well,” and, in simplicity, I believe I see a key.

I didn’t realize that praying for a simpler lifestyle meant that I had to give up the lifestyle I had. But I am almost – almost – adjusted to the concept. I had someone call me from Illinois who, knowing I was struggling with giving up stuff, suggested that I just be thankful for what I have had and say, “Goodbye,” to that which had to go. That has made a lot of sense.

I look forward to getting familiar with watching sunsets again, to reading on the screened-in front porch as the deer wander by in the field, to not climbing stairs. To have a morning cup of coffee on that same front porch before I go to the office. Without as many distractions, I look forward to thought, and to contemplation, and to prayer. I look forward to simpler things and simpler times.

I have never named a house before, but I am giving it some thought. One name I am considering is “Meadowview.” Our house will be on my son’s 12 acres next to his house and the view is beautiful. The other name is “The Oratory,” which mean “a place of prayer.” Both speak of simplicity.

If I had known what would be involved, I think I would have never prayed that prayer. In fact, I never expected it to be answered — at least in the way it has been.

But, after much grumbling, complaining, second-guessing, acting unspiritual, and being a bear to live with, I think I am finally at peace with this move. In fact, I wish we were there now.

But we have a house to sell and another that is almost built. It is time for a simpler life.

[David Epps is the pastor of the Cathedral of Christ the King, Sharpsburg, GA between Newnan and Peachtree City (www.ctk.life). He is the bishop of the Diocese of the Mid-South which consists of Georgia and Tennessee and the Associate Endorser for the Department of the Armed Forces, U. S. Military Chaplains, ICCEC. He may contacted at davidepps@ctk.life.]