By Brianna Hines
We are in the phase of parenting where the bedtime routine takes about five thousand years every single night. You know, that phase where the circus you put on to actually get them to bed takes longer than the amount of time they will be asleep! So part of our routine is reading aloud, but our kids’ ages are such that we have to split it up by age groups now because the older ones don’t want to listen to the baby books anymore. They’re too boring and simple. Well, I am kind of in the same camp. I don’t much like reading board books, especially since you only get to read the same three books over and over and over again despite having shelves FULL of other options! So, naturally, I get really excited when a new book gets added to the rotation!
A few weeks ago, Patty decided that her new favorite book was going to be The Very Busy Spider by Eric Carle. My apologies if this one gives you PTSD from your own bedtime routine days! Well, this book has made the rounds in our house through every kid. I can see why. It’s got it all! Animals, animal sounds, and even a bumpy textured web to feel! I could have sworn that the copy we had as a kid had glow-in-the-dark webs. It was legit. Ours does not, sadly.
Anyway, I had read this book a thousand times or more, so I knew the plot. I knew what I was in for. But, I don’t know why it is, but lately God has been using the simplest things to teach me lessons. And this was exactly that. I read through the book for the thousandth and one time, and it hit me like a ton of bricks: I need to be this spider.
Do you all know the plot of this book? Basically, this spider starts spinning a web, and then all day long people start bugging her, asking her to do other stuff. The cow comes along and asks her to join her for a meal. The sheep invites her on a run through the meadow. The spider just ignores them all and keeps spinning her web until she is finished. Then she catches a fly, eats it for dinner, and falls asleep. It is all very poetic. Until this point in my life, I had two responses to this spider…
- She’s rude! She doesn’t even stop to make small talk or respond to these other animals in any way. She just ignores them! I would think, “Shoot! Is this book going to teach my kids that they can just ignore people? That they can ignore ME!?!” Obviously I was a young mom and hadn’t realized yet that kids will ignore their mom whether or not they are reading The Very Busy Spider.
Ironically this response came during a season of my life when I found it very difficult to say “NO” to anyone or anything. I thought it was very rude to say “no,” or at least that it made me feel very guilty. And I tried to avoid it at all costs. I didn’t want people to think I was a rude spider.
- My second response came a little bit later in my life: She’s Anxious. She must be an introvert. That poor spider must be so overwhelmed. Think about it! Just moved into town THAT DAY and all these people want her to be involved in absolutely everything going on! She is probably super anxious, a bit depressed she is not her usual bubbly spider self that previously would have jumped at the chance to go jump on the rocks with the goat! But she just doesn’t have it in her now, and she doesn’t know why. And she doesn’t have the energy to explain that to everyone, so she just tries to be invisible. Wow. I didn’t intend for these illustrations to be so personally revealing.
I bet you can guess that this response came during the season of our lives when we had just moved to Eugene and didn’t know a soul but had every opportunity to be involved with the church. I didn’t quite know how to respond, but I did know that I didn’t want to be labeled an anxious, introverted spider. So I said “yes” to some things I shouldn’t have — and got even more anxious. Are you noticing a trend?
So two responses to this spider. She’s rude, or she’s anxious. Well, on that fateful day a few weeks ago when I read the book again, I had a third, very unexpected response to the spider:
- She is the perfect example of Simplicity. She’s not rude. She’s not anxious. She is focused.
She is confidently doing exactly what God created her to do, and she does not allow anything to distract her from it. I’ll say it again. She is confidently doing exactly what God created her to do, and she does not allow anything to distract her from it.
That. Is. Simplicity.
It’s not the absence of busyness. It is not some serene minimalist lifestyle filled with taupe and concrete and blissful hours of meditation. No way! This spider was busy! All. Day. Long. But she had a sense of focus that could not be drawn away by any other distraction, not even if it seemed rude, or made other people upset, or prompted them to judge her. This spider is a lot like Jesus.
Jesus. Was. Busy. In fact, if I were to write a kid’s book about Jesus, it would probably be called The Very Busy Jesus. His ministry stresses me out just thinking about it! All those people needing so many legitimate things, following Him everywhere. His disciples needing to learn so much in, really, a very short amount of time before His crucifixion. The whole world needing to hear His message of salvation! Every moment of every day He had something extremely important that could have taken His time. BUT, Jesus lived the simplest life that could be lived by any human being on this earth. And not just because He was homeless!
Jesus had a singular focus that dictated His every action. He said to the Samaritan woman at the well, “My food is to do the will of My Father and to accomplish His work.” That’s it. That is what fed Jesus, what gave Him joy and purpose and fulfillment. Doing only what God wanted Him to be doing in every moment. It’s all He cared about. Every decision He made, every place He went, every person He engaged with was only ever a response to His deeper focus on God’s will and work. Jesus didn’t always heal everyone. He didn’t always respond to everyone. He didn’t always go where people thought He should go or do what they thought He should do. Sometimes Jesus seemed rude, or uninterested. But He wasn’t. He was simply focused.
That. Is. Simplicity. Confidently doing what God has created or called us to do, without allowing anything to distract us from it. A singular focus.
The fact is, despite what we would like to think, or even like to admit to ourselves, we have limited time, both in our days and on this earth. And additionally, despite what we would like to think or admit, we won’t be able to do everything in that time that we want to do or think we should be able to do. Some things will get pushed off the plate, even if we don’t notice they have fallen off until years later.
So we have a very difficult job to do. We have to decide what is worth our time, and perhaps more importantly, what isn’t. What has God created or called us to do, right now, in this specific season of our lives? What are some things that might be distracting us from that purpose? What does it look like to live with the same singular focus that Jesus did during His earthly ministry? These are some of the questions I have been asking myself in the last few months, and questions that I think Satan doesn’t want us to be asking to ourselves or each other.
This January we are going to dive into a whole series on simplicity, and I wanted to give you a taste of the kinds of things we will be talking about because, especially in our culture today, simplicity is a spiritual discipline that is so important but also so misunderstood. I think it will be amazing to start a discussion with our ladies about it and get really practical with one another as we all try to figure out how to live like spiders in this crazy busy world we live in.
Join us beginning today, January 5 for Simplicity. We meet at the church 9:30-11 a.m. and 6:30-8 p.m. Choose a time that works best for you! Childcare will be available in the morning, and the evening study happens during middle school group beginning January 12. You may sign up at http://www.university-fellowship.com/events to receive emails about the study.
Brianna Hines (writer, teacher) and her husband Lewis are Oregon natives and have four incredible kids. Brianna is involved with the mom’s gathering, women’s ministry, and Sunday morning worship at UFC. She stays rooted in God’s Word through Bible study and writing, and she finds rest through gardening, reading, and walks with her family.