Wednesday, February 13, 2008

I wish I were one of those people who marked up books as I read them, highlighting and making notes and copying out quotes and all. But I'm not. It's rare that I remember to have a pen nearby, and rare for me to want to interrupt the flow to stop and mark something. To say nothing of the fact that most of the books I read are from the library. When I read, the reading absorbs me, and when I note a great sentence, I just say something along the lines of "why couldn't I have thought to say it that way?" and then move on with the rest of the story or essay or teaching.

I read a lot of fiction. And sometimes there are some real gems in fiction. Some writers are amazing at characterization, and they create people that I would love to know in real life. I like a good story line, and exciting plot, lots of mystery & suspense, but if I fall in love with the characters, I will read every book that author has published.

So, as I was sitting in the laundromat reading, I read a line that I really wanted to remember. And it was a library book, so I couldn't mark it up, and I'm pretty sure I didn't have a pen with me anyway. But I did have my camera. Why hadn't I thought of this before?

"It's only a thing. I was never a slave to possessions. It's not good to think there are things you can't do without. Feel that way about something and you end up doing things you'll regret to hold onto it."
(Quote is from a novel by Jo Bannister. Can't remember the title.)

This gem is from a character who in the book is an atheist with higher morals than some Christians I know. And it's a sound biblical principle. A man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth. That's Luke 12:15. God speaking.

It can be easy to get wrapped up in having all the right things. Whether it's the latest and greatest in fashion or vehicles or home furnishings. Or the trendiest designer handbag or shoes. Or the newest, smallest technology (MacBook Air anyone?).

It's also "easy" to knock materialism when it's this obvious. But how about some other possessions? How about family heirlooms? Things that have memories attached? Things with huge emotional significance? All the little bits and pieces of things that we save because they trigger memories of joy.

Can we hold all these things loosely? I don't want to attach so much significance to any of my belongings that I couldn't just leave them behind if I needed to. Or that I would do something I'd regret to hold on to these things.

I have a friend whom the Lord is preparing for the mission field. A couple of years back, she and her husband decided to sell their house to be more free for the next move, whatever and whenever that would be. Little did she know there would be several moves in the next year alone. She told me about how she got her 5 kids to pare down their possessions in preparation for the first move. She gave them each one box and said they could only bring what fit in that box (apart from clothing and other essentials, of course). When they had that filled, she gave them each a smaller box and had them weed things out until it all fit in the smaller box. I can't remember how small the final box was, but it got me thinking about all the stuff that I own, and what I would be willing to leave behind. How big would my final box need to be? My books alone! BIG box.

Compared to a huge percentage of the world, I am insanely wealthy. Compared to some people I know, not so much. But I am content with the things that I have. I am fine with running my 177,000+ mile car into the ground before getting another one. I'm fine with staying in my little apartment, though sometimes I long for a sprawling house with tons of space to spread out in. I'm okay with not spending $400 on a handbag, or three times that on "real" furniture in my living room or whatever is necessary to upgrade my technology every time something new comes out.

There are things that I long for…things that catch my attention and make me dream about owning them. But I find that if I stay away from all those things that exist solely to separate me from my hard-earned money, I'm really okay. If I stay away from pottery barn, and off of the ikea website and don't drool through the entire vera catalog that comes in the mail, I'm okay. I know there are so many things more important than things.

It seems there is so much more to write about this one. But I'm going to shut up now. My free couch is claiming my sick self for sleep.


M. said...

The thought has actually crossed my mind - if my house were burning to the ground what would I run in for? My mental list is comprised mostly of those nostalgic things, things that I couldn't replace no matter how much money the insurance company reimbursed me with.

Even those things, the ones we feel justified in our attachments to, can become our little idols...We might sacrifice resources and time to protect those things, when maybe our resources and time might be better spent on something other than "things".

Thanks for the post...Definitely gives me something to think about in my own life, especially as I raise my wee one into a world where "things" are so very much the focus.

Anonymous said...

I like your couch! Very comfy.....:-)

Anonymous said...

BTW - anonymous comment made by "ms. anonymous"!

Dave said...

Iwish more people could understand this very concept.

It can be summed up in one word...contentment.

I don't believe in the "gospel of prosperity". Having said that...

When you are content, and wise with what God has given you, sometimes God will provide more than you need.

You should blog more...I know what a hypocrite....

For some reason I can't find the time myself.

Get well soon.

RachelB said...

I'm sorry to read you're under the weather!

A mission trip to Ukraine gave me a similar epiphany, several years ago. I am rich compared to those folks, but they were such content, joyful Christians. I want that in my life -- the joy of the Lord, not infatuation with the dust of the earth.

(For this reason, and many others, I wish everyone could take a mission trip to a 2nd or 3rd world country. It really puts some things in perspective. But that's another topic.)

Janice said...

I don't know how I missed this for so long... other than I was sick too!

The final box... a little bigger than a shoe box. Except Olivia. But she is a girl, and she was the oldest! So she got to stay at the banana box stage! :)

I need to weed out again! Already!!

Anonymous said...

Girl you are no longer sick - update your blog!

studiosmith said...

Convicting. Thanks.