Friday, March 11, 2011

Giving it up

Yesterday, I had my routine six-month visit to the dentist - nothing out of the ordinary other than a longer than expected wait in the waiting area. Normally when I go, there’s maybe one other person in the waiting area if any, but on this particular day there were three other people. I took notice of one particular conversation between two men waiting on their children, most likely because they were talking a little louder than you’re really supposed to in a waiting room. One man was probably in his mid-to-late 40s, overweight, ironically wearing a jogging suit and sneakers; the other man was younger, probably in his mid-to-late 30s, dressed in colorfully adorned Ed Hardy-esque jeans and a rather large and ostentatious Gucci belt. The conversation that ensued was similar to this…Younger Man: “Hey man, I saw that you were driving that Escalade. Man, I’ve been wanting one of those so bad I can taste it. How do you like it? I’ve been looking at getting one of those or the Mercedes.” Older Man: “Yeah, I just bought it a little while ago, but it’s nice.” Okay, so I don’t really remember exactly the rest of all they talked about, but they continued to talk about Escalades, buying cars, gas prices, etc. for the next 15 minutes. Meanwhile, I was trying to look like I wasn’t eavesdropping, so I starting glancing at the TV – oh geez, SpongeBob Squarepants or something equally as annoying was playing, so then I rifled through some of the magazines on the table in front of me – Good Housekeeping, then People.

This all seems like a pretty normal occurrence, but God sometimes uses the mundane to speak to us or teach us. Something about this particular conversation bothered me though, and I had an unsettled feeling. I think it was the fact that our society (me included) is so engrossed with materialism and just acquiring fancy stuff. Why does he need an Escalade to be happy? Why did I even notice that he was wearing a Gucci belt? Why do I “need” another Coach purse or new car or cute, new spring clothes? Why was every other page in the magazine an ad for something that I “needed”? Why are there even celebrities and why do we care about what they’re wearing?

It’s hard to not be distracted by those nice and shiny things in life. The sermon at church on Sunday was about how something that starts out so nice and innocent can consume us and turn into our idol and obsession, and I think God was using this to show me a little insight into my own strongholds. The fact that this man said that he “wanted it so bad he could taste it,” I think, is what bothered and somewhat disgusted me and made me consider my own fascination with having nice stuff.

Having nice stuff doesn’t make you a happier or better person, but I realized in that moment why we tend to enjoy acquiring and showing off our nice stuff. We get attention and praise from it. “Oh, you’re always dressed so cute; you have such a beautiful house; [that thing you have] is so wonderful…blah, blah, blah.” It’s hard not to feel like your ability to choose and have nice stuff is a reflection of your identity and who you are. I never really thought that I had any issues with materialism. I would rationalize that I really don’t go shopping that much, don’t typically spend that much money on the stuff I buy and almost always only buy things that are on sale or clearance, so I must be okay or at least be better off than most people. However, I think everyone has at some point or to some degree dealt with bouts of materialism.

I don’t usually give up something for Lent, but during this Easter season, I’m giving up shopping. Gasp, I know! Well, not all shopping or we’d starve to death, but just frivolous spending on things that I don’t really need. So, no new Easter outfit or pretty spring frocks…boo. 

New verse...1 John 2:16. Download the free 4x6 printable here or click on the image to download and save the image as your iPhone wallpaper. 

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