Thursday, September 12, 2013
how God changed my view of "stuff"
This isn't officially part of the how to live within your means series, but it does fit into how God has molded and shaped my view of what it means to live within your means.
I used to be seriously addicted to stuff. Mostly clothes. Also CD's (remember when those were cool?). But mostly clothes. When I was 15, I got my first job and worked hard. And all the money I earned, went to stuff. Mostly clothes.
That was, until I turned 16 and got my driver's license. Even though I drove my mom's car, my parents still required me to pay for my own car insurance and gas. I am so grateful for that these days because I think it instilled in me an appreciation for hard work and an understanding of the value of a dollar. Parents take note.
But still, the rest of my money went to stuff and eating out and seeing movies. That was my lifestyle, you know? Buy new clothes every week. Go out with friends often. Spend, spend, spend. Fill my belly and my closet.
It's the lifestyle of this culture. Wait, who am I kidding? It is this culture.
And for that reason, it's an incredibly hard lesson to learn that stuff isn't important. It's a rude wake-up call when God pulls your card and aggressively changes your heart and attitude towards things.
It also takes a while. At least if you're stubborn like I am.
If I had to pinpoint a time in which this process began in my heart, it would be when God convicted me about the type of music I was listening to. I know, you're like, what does that have to do with buying things? Just hear me out because it was the beginning of Him showing me what's really important.
I had always hated Christian music. Actually, I refused to even give it a try. I was into grunge and punk and ska. I was far too cool for Christian radio. Over the course of probably 5 years, God continually convicted me about the music I listened to. Not necessarily that it was bad, but because I was in the world when I partook of it.
For me, music is so much more than just something to listen to and enjoy. I love music. I mean, it speaks to my soul. So, if I'm not guarding my heart in this area, then I'm opening myself up to the enemy. This is true for any seemingly "neutral" activity that we partake in as Christians. And as a Christian, we need to determine, through prayer and wise counsel and time in the word, exactly where we are easily influenced by the world without even realizing it. Examples might be television shows, movies, art, magazines, shopping, social media, alcohol. Really the list is unending. These things are not inherently evil, as music isn't inherently evil. They are neither sacred nor secular in nature and so we'll call them neutral. But, they can be used for both good and evil.
If you're questioning at this point whether alcohol can be viewed as sacred and wonderful, then you haven't read this verse and others like it. Of course alcohol can lead to bad things, very bad things and that is exactly my point. But, if you view it correctly and keep it in check, it can be yet another way through which we worship God. By enjoying a glass of wine, for example, and being moved to thank and worship God for the drink He has allowed you to enjoy, by His own goodness and grace. But I digress.
Point being, I was in no way intentional about the music I had been listening to. Instead of listening to music that was spurring me to worship the Creator, the Inventor of music, I was basically wasting time and energy. Does that even make sense? Like, instead of listening to a really beautiful piece of music and it speaking to my soul in a way that caused me to say, "God, this is beautiful and it's stirred in me an appreciation of Your beauty" I would just listen to music and say, "That was good." And yeah, I guess that's not necessarily bad. But it's sort of a waste.
And that's how my changed attitude toward stuff, toward things, toward material possessions, relate to this conviction about music.
Because, I soon began to learn that caring about my things, wanting to add to my things, it's a waste.
Like music, things are not inherently evil. Money itself is not evil. The scriptures don't say "money is the root of all evil." They say, "the love of money is the root of all evil." Those are very different things. There's nothing wrong with having money, even a lot of money. But when you allow it to take root in your heart and you grow to love it and the things it affords you and the power you gain through it, then you have a problem.
I've written many times about how tightly we live and have almost always had to live since we got married. There's no doubt in my mind that God foresaw the life ahead of us and determined it best to change my heart early on. And I am so very grateful for that.
I'm not going to lie. It was a process. It's still an ongoing process. Hello, I'm a girl. I'm totally tempted by cute clothes and adorable hair styles that I would love to have for myself.
Part of that process included not having cable. I know, I know, there I go again, talking about something totally unrelated to the topic at hand, right? Not quite.
We have never had cable. We have always had TV in some capacity, whether it be rabbit ears, Sky Angel, Netflix, Hulu, you name it. So we're not completely out of the loop (but pretty close). But I realized something recently that had never even crossed my mind about not having cable, having next to no channels to watch and therefore watching almost no TV at all. You know what it was? I don't give a rip about pop culture. I mean, I would go so far as to say that I hate pop culture. I know, that's where you stop reading. How dare I say something like that!
But it's true. It's so true.
Because I stopped watching television, I stopped filling my head and my heart with images of beautiful people wearing beautiful things, driving beautiful cars. I am almost entirely unaware, except for what I see on the few blogs I read, about the latest fashion trends, what is popular and what I should have in my closet. And I'm completely okay with that. If you had asked me 10 years ago if I would ever be okay with not shopping for at least one new article of clothing each week and with not watching certain television channels and with not reading a single magazine, I would have said "heck no!"
But that's because I was a slave to those things. I cared far too much about what I wore, how I looked, what I owned and all the rest of it. And I allowed those things to take root in my heart.
And then God radically changed my heart.
The best thing about not caring about stuff, about having the attitude that things just don't matter, is that I'm free. There is an incredible freedom in not worrying about clothes and furniture and ipads and cars and purses and shoes and jewelry and makeup and houses and boats and window coverings and televisions and kitchen appliances.
Instead of desiring and wanting the next new thing, I am free to worship and thank God for the few things that He has allowed me to have. It's just too exhausting to care about what I don't have. Seriously.
There's a quote from an old theologian that has always been one of my absolute favorites, and although it's said about money, I think it can be related to stuff in general.
"Money never stays with me. It would burn me if it did. I throw it out of my hands as soon as possible, lest it should find its way into my heart." John Wesley
We shouldn't be holding tightly onto our possessions. Instead we should be generous with them, willing to part with them if needed. We should desire to bless others with that which God has blessed us. And we should be always diligent about what we are allowing into our hearts. Because, if we're not careful, when we're not being intentional, those things will take root.