I was partially leading discussion yesterday, so I admit that I wasn't listening as well as normal. I was often focused on how to formulate my next question and when I should move the discussion along instead of attending to the discussion at hand. But I did glean some that I'd like to share.
First, a little back story. Craig Goodwin, the author, is a Spokane-area pastor. One Christmas, he and his wife Nancy realized how exhausted they were from the consumerist rush of the holidays. In a rock-bottom moment, Craig and Nancy decided that the year 2008 would be an experimental year in living locally. The Goodwin family was guided by four rules for the year: everything they bought had to be local, used, homegrown, or homemade. Local is defined as roughly the Eastern Washington and North Idaho area. As pastors, Craig and Nancy are also very interested in how all this applies to the Christian life. As you can see, it's a perfect book to be discussing in our particular location (and at this time of year). It's also a topic that's close to my heart.
My classmates are varied, thus it's quickly become apparent that no one person is going to approach this issue from the same background or come out with the same resolutions. We have avid canners and gardeners rubbing shoulders with those who shop mostly at Costco. The question I posed to my classmates yesterday arose from a chapter in which Craig creates a homemade pinata for his daughter's eighth birthday. After the experience, Craig writes: "We were discovering the importance of proper complexity."
My question is what is proper complexity?
It's more complex for me to make and can 14 quarts of applesauce. It took a considerable amount of time to pick the apples, chop and core them, fill jars, and process them in the canner. Each jar of homemade applesauce came to $2. It would take maybe 20 minutes max for me to drive to Fred Meyer to buy a jar of applesauce. Which is better? I think the answer is "It depends."
Which is why I think it's really important to ask this follow-up question: What is gained and what is lost by ____ (fill in the blank)?
In my example, what is gained by making my own applesauce? One easy answer: relationships. I purchased the apples from farmers who attend my church. While making the applesauce, I spent time by myself, praying and thinking and being present to the task and the process. With the extra applesauce, I fed my co-workers. With six of the jars, I'm able to share with my parents.
What was lost in making applesauce? Money and time I could have spent doing other things.
To be attentive to the two great commandments that Jesus reiterates in Mark 12:28-31 means the answers to many questions may never be the same two times in a row. It's more important to have the love of God and people as our overarching rules than to follow Craig and Nancy's local, used, homegrown, and homemade guidelines. However, it's very possible that to love God, the world he's created, and the people who bear his image, following Craig and Nancy's rules may provide an excellent framework for a proper and rooted-in-love complexity. Whether or not we like it, the world is complex, and we face choices every day that demand tough-love decisions from we who embody both the brokenness of this world and the beauty of the Kingdom to come.
How do you see this idea of proper complexity playing out in your own life? What decisions are easy to make? What decisions do you struggle with?