I’ve never been what you’d call “outdoorsy”.
I think nature is beautiful, but don’t ask me to camp. I don’t do bugs. I don’t enjoy peeing outside. I’ll hike to get some exercise and take in some scenery, but I don’t feel the need to commune with the woods any longer than I have to. The thought of being drenched in my own sweat with no hope of a shower or promise of warm bed to snuggle into at night makes my skin crawl. Thanks, but no thanks.
I love modern conveniences. Indoor plumbing. Instant Pots. Electricity. Hot baths with scented foam. Heat and air conditioning. Internet. Air pods.
Sometimes I wonder, though, if we’re missing out on how life is really supposed to be. Do all these modern wonders leave us with too much time on our hands and too few real life skills?
When we can grab a variety prepared dinners from the freezer and dump one in the skillet on any given night; when we schedule coffee dates over Zoom (or even outsource church to the Internet!) rather than getting out of the house and meeting in person; when we drive everywhere because walking takes too long; when we are utterly dependent on Netflix and Hulu to keep us entertained each evening; it makes me wonder: are we living completely removed from life as God intended?
Does our excess of time leave us feeling unfulfilled and lead us to stuff activity after activity into the empty spaces? Or maybe we just zone out on our couches night after night because we can’t think of anything else to do? Are we reluctant to put in the hard work and time it takes to develop skills that foster self-reliance, or creativity, or even godly living?
I’m just as in it as anyone else; I’m an eighties baby; born and raised in suburban America and all that encompasses: Toys R Us, Mickey D’s, trips with girlfriends to roam Fair Oaks Mall. We never went without. We had all the modern conveniences and tons of free time. I did spend quite a bit of my childhood afternoons outside with friends in the neighborhood, but we also binge-watched television like nobody’s business.
Thankfully, even though I grew up in the era of Nickelodeon and MTV and Super Nintendo, I’ve always loved reading. Some of my favorite books were the Little House on the Prairie series. I would get lost in the world the author built up around me: a snug cabin in the woods; a close-knit family that worked hard to survive and even thrive through long winters and times of hardship; nights by the fire while Pa played his fiddle and Ma knitted. Simple. There wasn’t much time for idleness because there was always useful work to be done. And it was this way for thousands of years of civilization before we came up with all these nifty shortcuts that make life so much easier. As I reread these books with Audrey, a sort of nostalgia creeps in for a way of life I’ve never known.
Now don’t get me wrong. Outhouses don’t seem romantic to me. Neither does tuberculosis. Or sewing my own clothes. I love Amazon as much as the next person. But maybe we are missing some of life’s greatest pleasures by skipping over the satisfaction of a simpler life; one less crowded by endless activity and constant noise.
Maybe, also, we do ourselves and our children a disservice when we model a life devoid of breathing room, quiet, and hard work. Time to hear ourselves think. Time to hear God speak to us.
I want to be intentional in creating space for less, because I think in less I will almost certainly find more.
More room for people around the table and good conversation.
More quiet time to reach for my Bible and sit with God.
More capacity to reach out to our neighbors or friends we haven’t seen in awhile.
More real-life skills to develop as I tackle baking bread from scratch or planting a vegetable garden or concocting herbal remedies for cold and flu season.
More Vitamin D and a stronger body as I push myself out the door to enjoy the wonder of God’s creation on a nature walk.
More peace as we sit around a blazing fire and read a book rather than switching on the TV.
What if this was the lifestyle we modeled for our children? What if it is exactly what we need ourselves?
I want to try.
I’m still thankful for hot baths, though.