By Claire McGrath
I continue to reflect on my time in Belize, one theme that keeps coming to mind is simplicity. As is the case for many college students, and many people in general, I have a lot going on most of the time—classes, homework, work, various extracurricular activities, etc. Add in a social life, cell phone, Facebook, Twitter, and all the other distractions many of us face, and that adds up to a whole lot of stuff going on in our lives. We live in a very fast paced society—we’re constantly on the go, and always looking ahead to what’s coming next.
In Belize, I was introduced to a different lifestyle. Removed from all technology and immersed in the Mayan culture, I got a chance to experience a much simpler way of life. The Mayans I spent time with lived in small houses with thatched roofs without much technology. They worked with their hands and were connected to their land and to their community. They cherished their culture and still held on to many traditional practices, such as grinding corn by hand to make tortillas or making homemade baskets and jewelry. By American standards, their lives were simpler than most of ours. The emphasis was less on efficiency and more on tradition. Even though the Mayans that I met had lives that were less cluttered, I found that they were still full and rich. There is a purity in a life that is uncomplicated by technology, a constant need to get things done, and the struggle for superiority.
In an environment where all the extra stuff that normally fills my day to day life was stripped away, I had the opportunity to discover who I really am, at my core, independent of all the extra things that I usually pile on to fill my time and accomplish my goals. I think that so often we seek to find ourselves by adding on endless activities and responsibilities, and we hope that in all these things that we do, we will figure out who we are. I think, however, that finding out who we are is more about simplifying than adding on. I tried to add on so many extra responsibilities to my life that I lost myself in everything that I had to do—I thought that my identity depended on the things that I did.
Simplifying our lives gives us the chance to contemplate who we are in our purest, rawest form. I think that it is here that God dwells. He exists in the very core of our being, in the essence of who we are. God isn’t in the efficiency, the competition, or the busyness of our everyday lives; He can be found in the simplicity, because God isn’t complicated. Our relationship with God is simple: it’s one of pure love. Sometimes it’s hard to understand that in a world where everything seems so complicated all of the time.
My challenge coming back from Belize is to be able to maintain the simplicity, the purity, that I experienced there in the midst of the busyness of my daily life. Even when our lives seem complicated with external activities, we are called to maintain a sense of inner simplicity, recognizing God’s presence at the core of our being and experiencing love in its purest form.