I was hiking through Platte River State Park last Saturday morning. Such a beautiful place. The park is peaceful and quiet early in the morning. The animals move through the forest as the sun rises. Some playing. Some searching for food. The light breeze gently cuts through the soon-to-be changing leaves. The leaves crunch under my feet and my breath gets louder and more frequent as I climb the steep hill.
And then I heard it. The plop. I had heard it a hundred times but it had been a long time. Maybe thirty years. I was immediately transported a couple hundred miles north and three decades back in time. I was sitting on a patio outside a century-plus-old, big, blue house. I was watching the squirrels play. I’d would have a magazine or a book with me and read through the pages. Every once in a while, one of the nuts would fall from the gorgeous black walnut tree in the southeast corner of mom’s lawn. Plop. I’d stop was I was doing and look. Sometimes I would go find the messy green nut and put it in the bucket I’d fill up and take to the store and get a little cash that I would immediately spend on a 3 Musketeers bar and a 7-Up.
I heard the plop a few days ago and I missed something. Best I can tell, it wasn’t that place. I still go there once in a while. After fifteen years, Omaha is home now. What I missed was the times. The phones were connected to the walls. The fireplaces burned real wood. The television sets had antennas that could get like four channels. Bicycles would take us from Point A to Point B. We played outside—wiffle ball and nerf football. Green Ghost and Kick the Can. We would gather about fires at night and roast marshmallows and tell stories. We didn’t have air conditioning. We didn’t have money. Life was so simple. And it was good.
I guess that is why two men drive thirty minutes to hike through the woods: seeking a Sabbath of simplicity in a complex world. A world full of distraction and anxiety. In the woods, the phones don’t get a signal. Can’t do anything about any problems or conflict when hiking on a trail. Exploring and discovery replace to-do lists and emails.
Simplicity is not the humanity’s greatest virtue. Love is and faith is a close second. I’d put simplicity third above everything else. Here is why. Simplicity is wise enough to identify the essential and courageous enough to eliminate the rest. Simplicity subtracts muddle and adds meaning. Simplicity needs little, wants less, and is both grateful and content. Simplicity creates balance. When Jesus was asked what was most important his response was simple: love God and love others.
Listen for your falling walnut. Simplicity is whispering your name through the chaos and the clutter and the confusion of complexity.