Many of you connected to the Apprentice Institute know that I oversee the adult learning program, Apprentice Experience. It has been an incredible opportunity for me. Not only do I get to work with a fantastic team of deep, Christian people, but I have the honor of leading people from all over the world in this 18-month journey in discipleship. Our pilot group – Community 1 – is made up of twenty-five people. They are pastors, church staff, para church workers and lay leaders.
As we prepare for our third Gathering in October, we are reading Jan Johnson’s book, Abundant Simplicity. Simplicity is about intentionally choosing the engaging, relational life we were meant to live. These choices allow God’s power to move through us and bless others as we have space to do good. Suffice to say, it has been making an indelible mark on our hearts and minds. Each week, we read two chapters, then attempt an experiment with simplicity.
One of the recent experiments asked us to talk with someone we know who lives simply. I gave some thought to this and decided I was going to talk to a friend from Florida who recently simplified her wardrobe by doing a “clothing capsule.” The concept is essentially a minimalist approach to clothing. The idea is nothing new. It actually dates back to the 70’s, but is making a comeback. The basic idea is to build a wardrobe with a few high-quality, timeless pieces that mix and match. You store seasonal clothing and only keep what you wear in your closet. Each season, you switch to a new capsule, though some pieces will overlap. The wardrobe is also intended to be built with ethical clothing.
For those of you who don’t know me, I’m a bit of a “clothes horse.” (Hey – everyone’s got their own vices, right?) I decided to attempt the clothing capsule after much prayer and thought. I took everything out of my closet and went through it all. I hung up what I wear regularly, including shoes. Then I went through what was left. I either gave away of donated the rest. I purged my closet again, only this time, it was really hard. I picked a couple different items and said goodbye to the rest. Versatility was the key to what I ended up keeping.
Part of having a capsule is not having all of your clothes in front of you, which can be overwhelming. For example, my fall/winter wardrobe went in the spare bedroom’s closet, which included coats, sweaters, and long sleeve shirts.
The last step in my transition to simplicity was to stop shopping. Which isn’t really hard for me since I hate to shop. But when you get rid of 75% of your clothes, it’s easy to stroll into a store and pick up some new items. Shopping should only occur when preparing to fill in the gaps for the next season’s capsule. My summer wardrobe has exactly 40 items.
For me, this process was extremely spiritual. While I was in seminary, my wife and I did not make very much money. We were in a season of minimalistic living. We hung on to what we accumulated in our previous lives because resources were limited. This process of simplifying my wardrobe revealed something incredibly insightful. I learned that, over the years, I hung on to clothes out of a lack of trust…with God. I didn’t trust that I’d have clothes to wear, so I kept them – even though I didn’t wear a lot of it. By purging my closet, it was an exercise in simplicity and trust. The experience was very powerful!
Through this process, I also have spent a great deal of time reflecting on the wise words of Jesus, from Matthew 6 (v. 25-34)
25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? 28 And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ 32 For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 “So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.
I posted my experiment with simplicity in the online classroom for the Apprentice Experience. Shortly afterwards, others from Community 1 began posting their experiments. It was staggering to read how they are living in abundant simplicity. I asked their permission to share some of their experiences with the entire Apprentice community. Next week, I’ll post Part 2 of this blog so you can read their stories.
John Carroll oversees the Apprentice Experience, a two-year certification experience in Christian Spiritual Formation for clergy and laity. With a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Central Florida and a Master of Divinity from Asbury Theological Seminary, John brings a unique blend of experience (11 years in corporate recruiting, 4 years in the local church) to the Apprentice Institute. He is happily married to his wife, Amber, and together they have two children, Aidan and Amelia. In his free time, John enjoys reading, watching football and spending time with family and friends.
For more information about the Apprentice Experience, contact John at firstname.lastname@example.org.