Tag Archives: materialism

Keeping an Eternal Perspective: Clothing

7 Jul

{This is the second installment of this weekly series.}

For the past several years, I’ve been wrestling through the practical implications of my faith in Christ. If I say I desire to glorify God and that He’s my greatest treasure, what effect will those declarations have on what I buy, how I spend my time, and what my goals are? While God has given me a lot of insight and I am more at peace about these things that I was before, I still struggle with feeling guilty for buying new clothes, spending 6 hours a week training instead of volunteering, and doing things I enjoy just for pleasure’s sake.

Last weekend while we were backpacking {sorry that I haven’t posted pics yet – last night was busy!}, I had some time Sunday morning to sit alone with my Bible. The passage in Matthew 6 caught my eye:

Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

“The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness! “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.

“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

“Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”

Set your mind on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.

These verses showed me the following:

1. God gave me these convictions – I didn’t come up with them on my own.

Ever since I started to analyze my motives and why I do certain things and don’t do other things, God has been changing the way I look at the world. It started out as guilt from buying another $25 t-shirt that I didn’t need when that same money would buy food for a month for a kid over in Africa. It morphed into guilt from doing anything with my time that I alone enjoyed – I was convinced that that was the epitome of selfishness. I couldn’t escape the guilt. It was everywhere. A caramel macchiato from Starbuck’s. A pedicure. A good book. A nap.

But looking at these convictions a different way, I see them as God’s way of inviting me into a life of infinite joy (to quote C.S. Lewis again) – a life of love, selflessness, freed from the snares of material possessions and keeping up with the joneses. He has given me a desire for a simple life:

  • to wear the clothes I own
  • to make wise purchases (after researching options nonetheless!)
  • to fully use everything I do spend money on (and make sure I’ll fully use it before buying it)
  • to treat my possessions well so that they last
  • to only replace things when they need replacing
  • to make the effort to be creative in making things last longer

Anyone who knew me in college would not recognize the girl writing this post today. I am that different in my approach toward money. And God has shown me that this is His work in my life, refocusing my attention on things that are unseen and eternal, rather than things that are seen and transient.

Oswald Chambers’ devotional yesterday said it perfectly:

God gives us a vision, and then He takes us down to the valley to batter us into the shape of that vision. It is in the valley that so many of us give up and faint. Every God-given vision will become real if we will only have patience. Just think of the enormous amount of free time God has! He is never in a hurry. Yet we are always in such a frantic hurry. While still in the light of the glory of the vision, we go right out to do things, but the vision is not yet real in us. God has to take us into the valley and put us through fires and floods to batter us into shape, until we get to the point where He can trust us with the reality of the vision. Ever since God gave us the vision, He has been at work. He is getting us into the shape of the goal He has for us, and yet over and over again we try to escape from the Sculptor’s hand in an effort to batter ourselves into the shape of our own goal.The vision that God gives is not some unattainable castle in the sky, but a vision of what God wants you to be down here. Allow the Potter to put you on His wheel and whirl you around as He desires. Then as surely as God is God, and you are you, you will turn out as an exact likeness of the vision. But don’t lose heart in the process. If you have ever had a vision from God, you may try as you will to be satisfied on a lower level, but God will never allow it.

It has been a long, hard struggle to get to where I am in accepting that God is in this. That God is calling me to a simple lifestyle and to give up caring about fashion, money, beauty, decorating, etc.

That said…

2. Sanctification looks differently for everyone.

I have just recently realized this on an even deeper level. For so long, I had been frustrated with feeling guilty for shopping “just because” because I had a list of reasons why I believed I could shop in faith. We tithed every month, I wasn’t spending an extravagant amount of money, and the biggest one, I saw other Christian women doing it. If they could do it, why couldn’t I?

A recent situation opened my eyes. There is a young married couple at our church whose wedding I attended. The toasts given by their families and friends all praised this couple for being very godly and strong in their faith. The time I had spent around them in a group setting seemed to agree with those assessments. I viewed this couple as two people who “had it together,” especially in their approach to money (which moved them up a notch in my book). Then I spent some time one-on-one with the woman and heard about their marital struggles, ones very common to young married couples. I realized that they were just human too.

And that got me thinking… those women with the latest fashions at church – I don’t know what’s going on in their hearts. They very well might be able to buy new clothes in faith, but that also could be an area of their lives that God hasn’t yet refined and sanctified.

All that to say, I can’t judge which of the Spirit’s promptings I’m going to follow or not based on what other people are doing. Oswald Chambers’ devotion for June 28 says, “At first, Jesus Christ through His Spirit has to restrain you from doing a great many things that may be perfectly right for everyone else but not right for you.” These things that I have been fighting may be perfectly right for others to do, but not me. I have to pay attention to my personal convictions.

All this time, I had wanted to go back to the way things were before. I was rejecting this new way to live. Instead of viewing it as God’s invitation to me into greater, deeper joy resulting from letting go of materialism and my own assessment of What I Should Be Able to Do With Christian Freedom, I had been fighting it and thinking there was something wrong with me, since I was struggling with this and no one else was. But as I drove to work yesterday, I realized that in doing that, I was assuming that I should be “above that.” I should be above materialism and selfishly using my time for myself. Well guess what? I’m not. God wasn’t fooled for one moment either. He knew all along what I’m really like on the inside. The joke’s on me.

3. For me, buying new things should be the exception and not the rule.

You remember my sandal post from a while back? I still haven’t bought any. I can’t decide which ones I want. Actually, I had decided which ones I wanted but then they were out of my size. Boo. I just don’t want to buy the wrong ones and then regret my decision. So I’m at a standstill on that one.

But I don’t feel guilty about wanting those sandals. The difference between this purchase and other past purchases that have given me guilt is that: 1) I’ve been wanting these sandals since I started my new job 2 months ago and 2) They wouldn’t be just another version of something I already have 10 of. So those are my new guidelines for purchases (notice that I said guidelines, not rules): Wait until I know of something I would really like and would be very useful to me. Research the options and pray for the Spirit to convict me if I shouldn’t buy them. Go purchase said item sans guilt. My other strategy is to mention all of the things I would like to Travis “just in case someone asks what I’d like for my birthday.” 🙂

My cousin is getting married on July 30th and I’ve been thinking about buying a new dress for the occasion. I might go peruse a thrift store to see if there’s anything good but otherwise, I feel like the best decision would be to wear a dress I already own – I have one that is great for summer weddings and I’ve only worn once or twice.

Oh and I’ll wear my new sandals. (I’m going to go look at some tonight.)

What does all of this have to do with keeping an eternal perspective?

For me, the question underlying all of this is: Where does my happiness lie? Is my happiness wrapped up in having cute clothes? Or is it in knowing that Christ died for me and I’m going to heaven someday? Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? When I see a chunk of my paycheck every month going to our church, Campus Outreach, and our Compassion child, am I thankful to God for allowing me to participate in growing His kingdom? Or do I wish I could use that money to go on a trip to Hawaii?

Christ didn’t say to store up treasures in heaven instead of on earth just because that’s a good thing to do, or because they really need more treasures up there. Instead, He said this: “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” God knows our humanity. He knows that we focus on what we treasure. So He says, “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.” He wants us to keep an eternal perspective.

Where’s the line?

30 Nov

This past weekend when we were with Travis’ family, he made some comments about me that I didn’t appreciate (nor did I think they were true). Since we drove back, I took the liberty of bringing the biggest suitcase we own – all of my big cozy sweaters take up a lot of room! And since I can’t wear them in Denver (it’s never cold enough), I figured that I might as well bring them back to Minnesota where it was cold enough.

Well, apparently this just proved to Travis something he had suspected all along – I am your typical woman packer. You’ve seen her at the airport. 5 suitcases and a tote bag that all match. She has to put them on the dolly because there are too many to carry. You wonder as she walks by “Why on earth does she need that much luggage? I hope she’s moving somewhere for several years.”

Ok, I can guarantee that I’m not that bad. I am actually able to carry on my suitcase for 99% of the flights we go on now (Mexico in January will be an exception). I leave my beauty products at home when they are bigger than 3 oz. I plan on wearing the same pair of pants more than once (gasp!). I bring one pair of shoes that will go with everything I packed (and usually try to keep all my clothes to either a goes-with-brown or a goes-with-black palette). I’m being creative so that I can carry on and please Travis. Do I not deserve some credit here?

[For the record, Travis does acknowledge and appreciate my efforts to carry on my luggage for flights. The comments he makes are playful in nature.]

Another comment that Travis made was when he was going through some clothes that no longer fit his younger (by 10 years!) brother, that his mom thought would fit Travis. “I need some more work shirts,” he said, “because Kathy keeps throwing mine away.” Now, that comment would probably irritate me even if it were true, but the thing is, it’s NOT! I have not thrown away even ONE of Travis’ work shirts and honestly, I have no idea where that comment even came from. Whatever, DEAR.

This blog is not a husband rant. Rather, these funny situations have highlighted a few things for me. One, I continue to struggle with the idea of being misunderstood. These comments that Travis makes are, from his perspective, all in good fun and aren’t intended to be criticizing, mean or derogatory. But I struggle with taking them in stride. Not because I think Travis really thinks that I’m materialistic or am on a warpath against his work shirts but because they are contradictory to who I think I am.

You see, I can’t handle being labeled materialistic. Mostly because I believe that I am not materialistic. Or at least I’m trying hard enough to not be materialistic that I think I’ve earned getting rid of that label. Ok, so maybe in contrast to Travis, I am slightly materialistic. But he drools over tools the same way I drool over new sweaters. Just saying…

Nonetheless, I have identified myself as “not materialistic.” I have also identified myself as supporting my husband’s ruggedness, which means dirty work shirts, tattered jeans, and shoes with holes in them. I just won’t support him in public. 😉

So Travis’ comments bother me because I feel like I’m being misunderstood. That’s not how I really am! I have to prove to you that I’m not like that! But that is not the way of Christ – He allowed people to form wrong impressions of Him. He knew who He was and didn’t need other people to understand Him.

His comments have also shown me another instance of where there is a fine line between an action being in faith and an action being a sin. Travis isn’t the only person who makes comments like that. I know someone else who likes to point out idiosyncrasies and quirky behaviors in front of other people… me.

I’ve been known to rib Travis about his attire selections or preferences. Or about something stupid he did. Or his hair. Or his hobo socks. Any of his quirks have been fair game.

But there is a line. I have to say that sometimes I make jokes at Travis’ expense because I’m actually a little bit mad or annoyed at him. Or I secretly hope that somehow, my comment will get him to change. Or I need other people to understand that I did NOT let my husband out of the house dressed that way. In short, those jokes often come out of lack of respect for Travis – and that is unacceptable.

I’ve often felt like my jokes go over the line – and I’ve asked Travis if it bothers him. He has repeatedly said no, that he actually thinks they’re kind of funny. But they just don’t sit right with me. And when I brought up my struggle with the comments that Travis made this past weekend about me, he seemed surprised that they bothered me so much (especially since I make those kind of jokes about him right back).

Which shows me that while I do believe Travis can make those jokes in faith (he is a chronic jokester, after all), I cannot. I want our marriage to faithfully represent the love of Christ for His church and am not sure that my witty comments about Trav’s mullet haircut serve that purpose. If Travis thinks joking about my need to match my shoes to my shirt can represent that love, more power to him (and more grace to me!). But, as with a lot of things in the Christian life, there’s a line between good, clean fun and sin masquerading as a joke.

So where is that line? What is ok to joke about, and what isn’t? How much time should you spend doing things for other people, and how much time should you spend on yourself? What about money – how much should you keep and how much should you give away? How much time should you spend at your job? How much time should you spend getting ready in the morning? What size of house should you have? How new of a car?

All of these are amoral things in and of themselves – and no matter how much I read and study, I cannot find any concrete criteria to answer these questions.

That’s because there is none. If the Christian life had rules, it would cease to be based in freedom. If God didn’t give us choices, we couldn’t choose to love Him over worldly things. The line between freedom and sin is a thin one, one wrought by the Spirit in our hearts. Sin is indicated by the Spirit’s conviction in our hearts. Freedom is characterized by joy. I keep looking for the line, asking God to just tell me already what He wants from me.

God is telling me what He wants. The absence of a concrete line is God’s way of telling me that He wants a relationship with me, instead of me just obeying a bunch of rules. Since there is no determined criteria, I have to stay in tune with the Spirit through an intimate relationship with God and let my heart and convictions indicate to me where the line is for me.

So, to stay on the freedom side of the line, I am going to respond to the Spirit’s conviction and try to stop poking fun at Travis in front of other people. I want to respect him and support him, no matter how ridiculous or silly I think he is! Like I mentioned in a recent blog post, I am also going to stop shopping for myself, since the Spirit has convicted me that I have an inordinate amount of clothing. I am also praying for the grace to respond to other convictions given by the Spirit.

Here’s to walking the line!

Ashamed of Affluence

24 Sep

[Disclaimer: This post is not meant to judge, since I am guilty of these same things! Instead, it is meant to be thought provoking and perhaps convicting. In my own life, those have already happened and now I want these convictions to inspire change in me.]

Last night, our church had our 2nd Focus meeting, when all the church members and prospective members come together and the pastor teaches us about what we, as a church, believe. This class is kind of review for me and Travis since we just took the new members class at Grace last year.

At some point during the night, they ask questions to the congregation like “Anyone in here have a birthday today?” or “Who in here has the highest college GPA?” Whoever has a birthday or the highest GPA gets a prize (book, gift card, etc.) Those are fun questions and it’s always interesting to see who answers what.

But there are a couple of questions they asked that just don’t sit right with me. The first night, they asked, “Who in here has the most pairs of shoes?” Last night, they asked, “Who in here has the most purses?” It probably goes without saying that women won both prizes.

And that’s entirely my point.

What would a church in Africa, a church that has a dirt floor and a couple of poorly constructed benches, a church whose members are in actual danger of dying from starvation or disease caused by dirty water, think about us? Why is a sort of accepted practice, ney even a joke, for women to be such overconsumers, especially in Christian circles?

How can we sit in our comfy warm homes surrounded by mounds of clothes, shoes, and purses and not care about those who have ONE pair of clothes, NO shoes and NOTHING to even put in a purse?

I’ll tell you how: Satan. Satan is the sneakiest, craftiest being on the planet. He is SO crafty that I guarantee you that today, after writing this post, I will wish I had a new pair of pants, new shoes, or see a cute purse that I’d like. Guarantee it. Satan uses this covetous desire in my heart just about every time I step into the sanctuary at church. I’m ashamed to admit that there are many times when I’m so distracted by my envy of other women (whether it be me wanting cute clothes or to be skinnier) that I can’t pay attention to God at all. I hate it. I hate how Satan distracts us.

Oswald Chambers writes in My Utmost for His Highest on September 18, “[Satan] does no come to us on the premise of tempting us to sin, but on the premise of shifting our point of view, and only the Spirit of God can detect this as a temptation of the devil.”

Satan is continually trying to distract us from what really matters. There is a part in The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis where I believe the uncle demon tells the nephew demon that his goal is just for his target to be comfortable and to think that everything’s ok. Then he will have no need for God.

I believe Satan and his demons do have that agenda and I fall into it often. Just a couple of weeks ago, I asked Travis if I could buy some new clothes. As if I don’t have enough in my closet already!

But here’s the thing. In her book Dangerous Surrender, Kay Warren talks about being gloriously ruined for Christ, meaning being so disturbed and unsettled by the physical condition of other people, by the evil things that happen in this world, that you can never go back to your pleasant, naive little life.

I am almost there.

I would say I’m fully there but then 2 paragraphs ago, I was telling about my desire for new clothes.

I think my personal problem is that I haven’t yet gotten involved in being the solution to these woes. I see the problem but have yet to do anything about it. There are a lot of reasons why I haven’t: busyness, indecision, fear, indifference at times.

But I’ve heard it said that when you’re the one who sees a need, God intends that you be the one who fills it. And I am ready. I am ready to be used.