I have a problem… I like fancy things. I believe the term is the “finer things in life.” At one point this used to be a compliment. Now, it’s just a problem.
My Nonnie liked fancy things too. Her favorite activity was to take the grandkids shopping and secretly buy them way too much stuff. I remember my prom dress like it was yesterday. We were visiting family in Atlanta and during the trip dedicated an entire day to finding the “perfect dress.” We searched high and low and couldn’t land on one. Then, out of I’m sure desperation, my aunt suggested a place that smelled nicer than anything I owned. Shocker, I found the “one” at the overpriced prom dress shop.
Nonnie used to call it “expensive taste.” That was code for “picky” and “materialistic.” That was (is) me. So, yea I admit, I like the finer things in life. Things like kitchen renos and fiddle leaf fig trees and midcentury modern. Now, there’s even such thing as fancy wallpaper. Surprise, surprise I want it.
Recently I spent some (much needed) time at the beach. I devoted 6 days for studying, preparing, resting, and then preparing some more for the next few months of ministry. One day, as I’m walking on the beach, thinking and praying about God’s plan, admiring His creation, and asking for direction and wisdom (all super spiritual things) suddenly, almost out of nowhere, I am hit with a row of freakishly beautiful beach homes. Not kidding, I kept checking to make sure I didn’t wander on some sort of movie set or “exclusive” beach. These homes were insane. Some of the most elegant, immaculate, MASSIVE, homes I’ve witnessed.
& Instantly I’m derailed and caught in a cycle of…
WHO owns this? Do they live here or is this their “vacation” home? I wonder it looks like on the inside. How can I become their friend and visit? Scratch that, how do I get the job that would allow me to afford such a house?
Yea, the complete opposite of “super spiritual.” It was vain, superficial, and quite frankly distracting. Then, almost as though God was shaking me back to reality, a loud wave crashed next to me and immediately forced me out of my hypnotic, vain trance.
I got lost in “stuff.”
In fanciness. In the created and not the Creator. In the gifts, not the gift-giver.
I’d love to say this is a one and done type thing. But the reality is materialism temps me (us) greatly. It sits at our front door and whispers pinterest-y ideas and “updates” and outfits and “stuff” that would offer some type of momentary satisfaction.
I’m starting to wonder if materialism has become some type of gateway drug. A fix to make us feel more confident, more valued, more professional, more… together. Well- manicured. Clean.
We used to call this “keep up with the Jones’.” First of all, who are the Jones’ and why do we have to keep up with THEM? And second of all, it’s more like “keeping up with every-single- person you know/follow/meet/like/tweet/pin/post.” That’s a lot of pressure. A lot of keeping up and looking good and perfectly filtered selfies or random hipster posts of your new shoes/rug/coffee mug/article of clothing you are trying to promote in order to get known. Ouch.
I said it. I’ve done it. We all do it. We like the likes. We like looking good. We like the stuff. If we didn’t, Pinterest would be out of business and there wouldn’t be millions of people running around in debt or in houses/cars/shoes they can’t afford.
It’s an epidemic.
A vicious, vicious enslaving cycle that promises the *hint* of satisfaction.
The hint of meaning. The hint of value. The hint of making a name, our name, known. Ouch again. & Yea, guilty again.
Somewhere along the way we became more enamored with the houses that face the ocean than the ocean itself. We became more enamored with the things of God rather than God, himself. We’ve take a beautiful, majestic, holy creation and turned it into raw commercialism. Into a fix of some sort; a drug that would never be satisfied.
But let’s be honest. We are surrounded by it. Materialism, commercialism, none of it is going to change. It’s a large, well-oiled machine that’s just going to keep manufacturing. The challenge becomes to not get on the machine. To not get lost in the sparkle and forget what gave it, it’s shine. To not get lost in a row of beautiful things facing THE MOST beautiful thing.
Sparkle does what sparkle does. It fades. And one day it gets replaced with something shinier and brighter and more expensive.
So the battle is in learning to be content. Learning to be thankful for what we have. Giving to those who have less. And living a life of gratitude that points not to our fancy houses or well put together selves… but to the God who created all of it.
Listen to this passage in Hebrews…
Hebrews 13:5 (NIV)
Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”
Does that seem odd at all to anyone? I get the “keep your lives free from the love of money” bit. But the “because” or “reason” appears disjointed.
Shouldn’t it read something like:
“BECAUSE when you follow God you will have all you need?”
or “BECAUSE everything is God’s?”
or “BECAUSE God’s love is better than money?”
All of those seem like a logical reason. A logical “because” to follow the challenge to be content. But to challenge us to remember God “will never leave us or forsake us” seems off. Or does it? Maybe it’s not off but rather dead on. Dead on in revealing the core issues we as a nation and as people deeply wrestle with.
Think about it…
WHY are we such consumers?
WHY does money and fancy homes and Target have such a strong hold our lives, souls, comfort?
Because we are attempting to fill a piece of our eternal souls with a finite object. An object that can be easily & quickly attained. That has the promise of instantly making our circumstances, bodies, homes, and frustratingly difficult realities a tiny bit better.
But what if we put our contentment in God? In what we are blessed with today and what we can help others with tomorrow. What if instead of maxing out our credit cards or working to the bone so we can afford all that “stuff” we have… what if we took less and gave more.
What if we deeply and intimately KNEW that God would never leave us or forsake us?
It’s strikingly similar to God’s command in Psalm 46 to “Be still and KNOW that I am God.” Only this time we need to be still and know that God is PRESENT. That God is with us. That God will see us through this season, challenge, day, struggle. That God won’t leave us or abandon us or forget us. That in fact, just the opposite, is true. Maybe that way we wouldn’t work so hard trying to convince ourselves that God is present in our challenging day in day out lives. Maybe then we would KNOW God is real. And that God is PRESENT in our pain, & insecurities, & loneliness. That we actually don’t have anything to prove to anyone (not even ourselves)…. Because God, THE GOD, is with us- through thick and thin (no matter that the Jones’ have to say).
How would deeply and intimately knowing that truth change us? Would we then still patch these little leaky holes in our souls with more finite stuff or with the everlasting, eternal God? Would we still avoid our painful realities or begin to allow our gapping wounds to heal?
The truth is, tearing off those Band-Aids, putting down that fix, yea it might be painful. Who knows- It might be quick. It might be long. It might be difficult. I have no clue what that process will look like for you. But I can promise you, the healing process is a journey (so be patient with yourself) & that God (THE GOD who created the ocean and sky and birds and fancy houses) is with you every step of the way. That’s a big promise but I can claim it.