Yesterday I came across a line by poet T.S. Eliot that struck me so soundly that I drove immediately to the bookstore and got a copy of his book of verse Four Quartets.

Quick now, here, now, always–
A condition of complete simplicity
(Costing not less than everything)
And all shall be well and
All manner of thing shall be well …

(T.S. Eliot, “Little Gidding” V in Four Quartets)

“A condition of complete simplicity / (Costing not less than everything)” … wow. As I read the rest of this section of verse, I realized I had heard many pieces of it before, but these two lines were like a sword piercing my soul.

Simplicity is a complex word. It’s nuanced and multivalent, seemingly contradictory in itself.

Main Entry: sim·plic·i·ty (Merriam-Webster)

1 : the state of being simple, uncomplicated, or uncompounded
2 a : lack of subtlety or penetration : innocence, naiveté b : folly, silliness
3 : freedom from pretense or guile : candor
4 a : directness of expression : clarity b : restraint in ornamentation : austerity

Depending on how you read it, simplicity can be a good thing or a bad thing. Which meaning did Eliot have in mind for these verses? And, perhaps more importantly, what meaning does the reader perceive as she or he reads these verses? Reading this, reflecting on it, has become a part of my prayer for today, a kind of lectio divina or “sacred reading” as I try to see what God might be saying to me through my being captured by these words.

I find that many times when I am struck soundly by something out of the blue that I can use the experience to “unpack” some kind of call from God. It might be a call to attend to a pressing concern, to explore an idea further, to grow in understanding God, etc. It’s an invitation to go deeper in a new way.

A couple questions for you … how do you read Eliot’s line about simplicity? Have you had a similar experience of being “struck soundly” by a word or image or other experience?