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More With Less

Spiritual Training Cycle: Submission (wk. 9/13)

Are you familiar with the sport of handball? It’s played by teams of seven passing a ball using their hands across a field with the aim of throwing the ball into the goal of the opposing team (like most normal sports). I learned a valuable lesson from one of the best in the sport, George Quam.

He was inducted into the Minnesota State Handball Association Hall of Fame in 1993. What set him apart from everyone else was that he was born with only one arm. That’s quite a disadvantage if you ask me in a sport called handball. However, in an interview that he did, a reporter asked him what made him such a great player. Quam’s response was, “I have less options.”

The more I thought about his response the more it started to make sense to me. It’s freeing at times to have less options. Personally, I enjoy true or false tests more than the multiple-choice ones because I had a 50% chance of getting the answer right even if I just guessed. For Quam, having his options narrowed down to one, I can imagine that his senses were heightened on the field when he played. Instead of having to think about what hand to use when the ball was served his direction, he could use more of his thought process calculating his next move.

Taking it figuratively, I believe some of our experiences look like we are playing handball with more than just two hands. It seems we increase our anxiety when we add more options to our list of options. For example, you can go online now and search “How to get in shape,” and you can find thousands of videos telling you different ways. With all of the resource material you can find, how do we make our lives any easier? The answer is less options, but the right ones.

As I read the Scriptures, it looks a lot like the life God was offering to the Israelites when he rescued them out of slavery. After their escape from captivity, they spent forty years trying to find their way through the wilderness. Their only option if they wanted to live was to rely on God, and God provided for them. He led them through the wilderness to test and humble them. If they were to be His people, they were to stand out among the rest of the nations who served other gods by centering their worship on the One true God.

As a departing speech, Moses reminds the Israelites of this, “man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.” I interpret this to mean that an easy option can be the wrong option if it’s not what the Lord intends. Jesus lived by this principle as well when he fasted in the wilderness for forty days and forty nights (Matthew 4:1-11). Under the extreme conditions he faced without food in the desert, the devil sought an opportunity to tempt Jesus to break his obedience to God. Instead of choosing the easy wrong option, He chose the difficult but right option of depending on God for His needs.

Jesus trusted in the Father with His very life to take on the sins of the world even when we didn’t choose Him first. If Jesus did not raise from the dead but instead died with all our sin nailed to the cross, then we would need another option. But in fact, Jesus did raise from the dead making Him the only option for us to know God.

The simplicity of the Gospel helps us to enjoy our lives more because it’s not about having more options but less. So, what fewer options do you need in your life? The spiritual exercise of simplicity can help you find the answer. Because the bottom line is that we can search for joy and peace and fulfillment in plenty of places – careers, accomplishments, investments, or even athletic achievements. But we’ll never find what we want by adding more. We’re not fulfilled by the more we do but made whole through the One we know and love.

Questions for Reflection:

How can you apply the concept of “more with less” to your life?

What options compete for your relationship with God?

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