I have a weird relationship with stuff. For the past 4 years I’ve been adamantly denying myself of things I want rather than things I need. In part it was out of necessity- when we moved to Cleveland we weren’t able to sell our house in Michigan and were some of the millions of Americans who ended up having to foreclose on our home.
I was pregnant with Oswald in 2010/2011, the same year we had to declare bankruptcy which is essentially what you do when you foreclose on a home. The only picture I had ever had of bankruptcy was of the Nationwide ad with M.C. Hammer sitting on his front porch of his mansion while his grand piano was being carted away.
I did not have shiny gold hammer pants, though maternity pants could be classified in the same genre of pants. I didn’t have any fancy paintings to be carried away or a mansion to sell. It was all the little things that had to go- a bottle of body wash, a McDonalds run to indulge a pregnancy craving, taking a visit to the children’s museum with Reuben. The painful little things of everyday that reminded me we were so close to the edge financially that a few dollars over our grocery budget would send Dave and I into huge fights about whether or not we needed mushrooms.
When you learn to deny yourself it becomes difficult once you have the freedom to say yes to things- to feel that you do have the freedom to enjoy material things. I spent so long convincing myself that I didn’t really need anything that I find myself in a place now that I am both content with what I have- a wonderful thing, yet feeling conflicted about what is a need and want.
I live in the awareness of what it was like to stand in line to apply for food stamps knowing that millions around the world don’t even have this luxury. That finding a spot for the head of cauliflower in the fridge is a gift rather than annoyance- because I actually have enough food in my fridge. I’m slowly finding my way, and our way in marriage to deal with the trauma of all this and come out with a right view of stuff and money.
As a Christian I believe that anything in your life that is more important than God is an idol- something that consumes your time, energy, thoughts that was only ever meant for God. Excessively worrying about money and stuff is equally as bad as obsessively thinking about or buying stuff. I remember even as a small child, not winning a stuffed lamb at a carnival and feeling sick when I went to bed that night that I would never have that lamb. Now I do the same thing when I look at Pinterest and go to bed feeling sick that I won’t be able to afford a duvet from anthropologie. So stupid. So easy to get sucked into.
Weirdness with stuff and money starts young- and then we get all the weirdness from our parents whether they’re savers, spenders, misers or gluttons. As adults we somehow have to figure out- “what will my relationship to money be?” Will I let it drive or control me? Will I care so little about it that it causes hardship? That becomes even more complicated when you have kids who want stuff and begin asking questions about money.
I have been wanting to write about this for a long time, but I couldn’t bring myself to be vulnerable about this painful area in life. I didn’t want to seem like a failure, to seem stupid, careless or faithless. But I realize that so many other people feel this way too- and if I’ve learned anything from writing it’s that my stories are like an echo for someone else to hear and call out- “you too?”
God is doing some weird transformation inside me right now that I don’t entirely understand. Transformation that is challenging how I view myself, how I relate to stuff, how I care for myself and how I can care for others. There’s stuff inside that I need to get out that’s new, latent or just vulnerable for me. Yay for you that you get to read all this messy weirdness as it spills out into my blog!
I do though, hope that these things that are challenging me will begin to challenge you as well- to feel more content, to feel more generous, to feel more grateful, to live more free in the trust that God is able to give us good gifts- whether tangible or intangible.
What is an area in your life you feel challenged to grow in lately? Heath? Finances? Friendships? If I had to sum up my challenge it would be: “I am challenged in how I view money and stuff and how I relate to those things.” Your turn!