"And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped Him in swaddling clothes, and laid Him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn."
When I was growing up, there was this wildly popular song by the Eagles called, "Life In The Fast Lane." My "Generation X" co-horts will readily remember it. With all due respect to songwriters Glenn Frey, (God rest his recently-departed soul, and I do trust he is now resting in peace), Don Henley, Joe Walsh, and all Eagles fans, the lyrics to "Life In The Fast Lane" were very rebellious and downright vulgar and desecrating to anything God-honoring or spiritual. To be brutally (and use an adjective from the first line of the song) honest, I detest the lyrics and always have. While I find the coarse and indecent off-color and drug-glorifying parts of the song offensive, the absolute worst part of the lyrics is the blatant profanity in the third verse. Anything that takes my Lord's name in vain and attaches the "D" word after it really makes me angry. It was surely never the obscene and irreverent lyrics that attracted me, but the beat and the music and Joe Walsh's guitar riffs that used to draw me in. Forgive me for talking about it here on a Christian devotional blog, and I certainly am not encouraging anyone to listen to this song. I apologize if I offend anyone by the mention of it, but there is this one line in the chorus that resonates and came to mind when I began to write this post.
"Life in the fast lane, surely make you lose your mind."
While we may or may not have spent portions of our lives living in such a "fast lane" as described in the lyrics of this song, many of us have lived most of our lives in some version of the fast lane. We hustle, we bustle, we drive ourselves crazy trying to meet the impossible demands placed upon us by a materialistic, consumerism-driven society, and, yes, it can surely make you lose your mind to try to keep up with the fast-paced rat race. We see ads and hear commercials and think we have to rush out and buy what is being promoted. We work our lives away to keep up with the world around us. We sacrifice time that should be spent experiencing life first-hand with our families upon the altar of climbing the socially-acceptable ladder and pursuing what the world deems successful.
As I look back over the past few years, I am amazed at the way God has slowed our pace...way down. If I were able to insert a sound effect here, it would sound like an LP (remember those?) being played at chipmunk high-speed, then lowered down to the slowest-speed possible, until it sounds like a dragging, warped record. That is how distinctly different our pace is from the fast pace we used to maintain while speeding through life at breakneck speed. The dear Lord has directed us completely away from the maddening rat race of the "fast lane", over into a lane that requires a very simple, slow-moving pace. Though it has cost us much and been an uphill, strenuous climb, it has been worth every, single, labored step to make the switch to change lanes. We have learned to adjust to living on one income, to spending far less, to living totally within our means, to destroying every credit card we owned and not charging anything, to using what we have on hand until it is worn out, and to generously giving from a place of sacrifice and not out of abundance. It is a beautiful life. I have never been happier. I can't believe what God has done, as we have launched by faith and walked forward in sheer trust in Him and His ability to sustain us, regardless.
I find that we need way less than society tells us we need. That we can be content with food and raiment and a roof over our heads. That we don't have to hold the title to a big house or excess space or overabundance of possessions to be completely happy. In fact, I have found that we are so much happier without all of that. It feels incredibly good to just let go. To stop trying to conform to the expectations and molds crafted by others. To just focus on pleasing God and to following Him only, not caring what other people think of us or how we are perceived. It is very liberating to stop obsessing over things like that.
As my family and I continue our pursuit of simplicity and refusal to bow to the demands of consumerism, we find that at no other time of the year is it more powerfully noticeable or harder to fight against being derailed from the slow lane than it is at Christmas. Honestly, it takes more willpower to remain firm and not overdo and succumb to the pressure at Christmastime than at any other time of the year. Because we love to give, and in order to do that, there is this temptation to veer way off-track and unintentionally regress to the point of having swerved back over into the fast lane. It would be so easy to try to justify our actions by telling ourselves, "It's Christmas, and it's okay to take a break from sensibility at this time of year."
Every time I think about minimalism, I automatically think about our dear Lord Jesus. He left the splendor of Heaven to be born in the lowliest of circumstances. His parents were poor, by the world's standards, but I can only imagine the pure richness of joy that filled their hearts the night Mary gave birth in a borrowed space! Their focus was not on anything around them. They didn't need things, owned possessions, wealth, or even creature comforts to be happy. Nothing on earth could have made them more content that night. They knew their treasure was based in and upon
something some One else.
Somehow, the simple scene of the nativity is polar opposite to the maddeningly chaotic scene we see played out every December.
Our world tells us that it is impossible to live simple in this modern age. They are wrong, my friend. Not that it is going to be easy. Nothing about it will be easy. Because to live simple and minimal is going to go completely upstream against everything this world tells us. It will take strong determination, ruthless intentionality, and steel resolve to resolutely stay in the slow lane,
especially at Christmas, but it absolutely can be done.
In this post I talked about how minimalism has made Christmas more peaceful in our home. We felt the benefits of this last Christmas, and we are feeling it even more so this season. Because this is an ongoing process. And, as we go along, we learn, and as we continue to shed excess, we become more wise.
Though we love everyone just as much as, if not more than, we always have, we have had to scale back our Christmas buying even more this year. Not that we wanted to, but if we bought for everyone we would like to buy for, it would require us to use credit to purchase gifts. In order to comply with God's will for us, and in order to remain in this slow, simplicity-filled lane of life, we need to do everything within our power to eliminate stress. To us, debt equals stress, and debt equals going against God's will, so we must refrain from elaborate spending, however well-intentioned, in which we used to indulge.
The strong pull to the fast lane at Christmas doesn't just have to do with monetary spending.
At no other time of year is the pull of worldly conformity and demands upon our time more overwhelming.
There is no written rule that a certain number of cookies must be baked,
that we have to attend every party and event available to us,
that Christmas dinner has to be an undertaking that requires hours of standing on our feet,
that we must run ourselves completely ragged trying to create Pinterest-perfect Christmas ambiance.
I don't think Christmas was ever intended to be stressful at all.
The more we try to come in line with the mindset of Jesus,
the more we are enlightened to the simplicity of the life He lived.
From the manger to the cross, He was single-mindedly eternity-focused.
To be honest, and not to sound like Ebenezer Scrooge, I don't think Jesus is in the chaos of Christmas at all.
Oh, He IS the reason for the season, and He IS the heart and soul of the meaning,
and though I know there are some who don't agree, I happen to believe we should celebrate His birth.
But, I do not believe anything to do with Jesus Christ ever causes distress.
I don't think it makes Him smile to see His children rushing around like headless chickens,
maxing out credit lines, pushing past physical limits, and splurging to the point of excess,
just to "celebrate" the commemoration of His lowly birth.
When we are so focused on doing everything within our power to satisfy the demands of the world around us, I think we have totally and completely lost touch with what Christmas is all about.
This Christmas, I am resolved to keep moving slow.
No matter how hurried and frenzied the world in the fast lane around me is hastening by,
by God's grace, I will stick to my guns.
I will not get caught up in the racket that has absolutely nothing in the world to do with that humble night in Bethlehem.
I am eternally grateful He came.
I long to worship Him with all my heart and soul...every, single day.
It is my utmost goal to please Him...to keep following Him...
to keep learning from Him...to give it my all to live the simple life He is calling me to live.
May we all remember the precious simplicity of that holy night so long ago,
and may we strive to maintain its integrity this Christmas season.
God bless each one of you, dear friends.
And, now, enjoy one of my all-time favorite Christmas songs with scenes from "The Nativity"!
Thank you, Jesus!
If video doesn't load, click here.
Thank you, Jesus!
If video doesn't load, click here.