by Mike McDonough, Pastor of Discipleship & Administration

Discovering Complexity through Simplicity

Somehow, we as humans can easily make simple things complex. For example, answering the question of where to go out to eat on Friday night can become quite complex. In Hernando, this is especially true because the number of Mexican food restaurants rivals the number of banks we have in town. Everyone has their own opinion but no one agrees. The answer to where to go eat can be simple – a Mexican food restaurant. Yet, this simple answer is quite complex because no one agrees on which Mexican food restaurant to go to for tacos, burritos, enchiladas, nachos, or chicken, cheese, and rice. Anyone hungry yet?

When thinking about our spiritual lives, we often lean towards complexity over simplicity. I have found this to be true when trying to determine if I am “growing in Christ,” “living in the spirit,” “growing in the spiritual disciplines,” or “having an abundant prayer life.” What in the world do these things mean?

I have found that using a tried and true yet simple evaluation method has helped me better understand my own “spiritual growth” and “walk with Christ” as well as determine areas in which I need to grow.

I use the tried and true thumbs-up/thumbs-down evaluation method.

The thumbs-up/thumbs-down evaluation method brings clarity in a world of complexity.

A simple full-out, all-or-nothing binary evaluation on a topic brings clarity. I ask myself a question and have to give a thumbs-up or thumbs-down. There are no caveats, explanations, or excuses. There is a simple answer. Good or bad. Yes or no. Excellent or abysmal. I can’t waffle or get out of answering. I may slowly move my thumb up or down just to add some flare, but in the end, the answer is out in the open. I have to go all in even when I do not want to.

The complexity within a simple binary decision shows itself in the gut reaction after making the decision or evaluation. My rationale and feelings about the decision come into clear focus after I have made it. Before the decision, they are all there, but are somewhat fuzzy because I dread making the decision. The complex rationale and feelings that helped shape my simple good/bad or yes/no decision come into focus and are seen more clearly. However, they don’t always line up along clear lines. Rationally, I may want to go with a thumbs up, but emotionally I may want to go with a thumbs down. Everything becomes a little more complex. Even when things do line up, the multiple reasons, feelings, facts, and figures that go into the decision are quite complex.

How does this relate to evaluating your spiritual growth? Simply ask yourself how you are doing with some of those generic terms/phrases we often use in reference to our spiritual walk - Are you growing in Christ? Are you living in the Spirit? Give yourself a thumbs-up or thumbs-down evaluation. You can also ask about specific areas of growth - Are you compassionate to others? Are you sharing your faith? 

I have found that once I give myself a thumbs-up or thumbs-down evaluation, the reasons why I feel that way fill my mind. I then discover some areas in which to focus, grow, and seek help.

So... are you growing in your walk with the Lord? Thumbs-up or thumbs-down. Why did you make that evaluation? Are you encouraged? Did you think of ways to improve? What steps can you take to grow?

Keep asking questions and keep growing. Don’t forget to ask for help. God wants us to grow together.

P.S. – You can also use the thumbs-up/thumbs-down evaluation method to decide where to go out to eat. You may even find yourself doing the opposite of what your thumb decided. That is complexity through simplicity in action.