Married to the Empire

Friday, March 20, 2009

Letting Go

I have a bit of a thing for books on personal finance, frugality, and simple living. Part of it is that reading these things gives me some degree of motivation, but part of it is probably that it's easier to read about something than to actually do something. There, I've admitted it.

Larry Burkett is one of my favorite personal finance writers. I realize his stuff is old, but his advice is still good. Add to it that he writes from a wholly Christian perspective, and his advice is just that much better. I recently read through his book Using Your Money Wisely, and this statement from his chapter "Being Content" has stayed with me:

In America I believe nearly everyone would be graded as wealthy by any biblical standard. Our anxieties and worries are not related to the lack of things but rather to the loss of things. Many, if not most, Christians inwardly fear they might lose the material goods they have acquired. Therefore, they compromise God's best for their lives to hang on to the very way of life that brought so much worry and turmoil before they met the Lord.

Everyone is freaking out over the current state of the economy. I'd be lying if I said it didn't worry me, too. I don't think, though, that Burkett was referring to potential job losses and the things that can follow; I think he was referring more to attitude.

I live in a very image-obsessed part of Texas. Steven and I have joked before that we're the poor folks at our church because we don't live in the same (much more expensive) neighborhoods as the majority of our church members. We haven't had a new car in nearly 9 years, and what we do have are humble Hondas. And yet, we're anything but poor. Steven makes a very good salary, and I've been a SAHW for nearly 10 years. That's privilege.

But there are certainly times we get sucked into making comparisons or wishing we had more. A plasma TV or newer car or fancy vacation would be nice. On the flip side, we've recently looked around our house and wondered how 2 people could accumulate so much stuff. We're constantly purging. It's a crazy paradox that seems to define the American lifestyle.

How much of what we cling to doesn't even matter? So much of it is nothing more than emotional. A prime example in my own life is my dollhouse. I have a gorgeous, huge dollhouse that my dad built for me when I was 7. I loved it as a child, and it holds such fond memories for me, not to mention the time and care my dad put into making it that it represents. I've clung to it fiercely, regardless of the fact that we have no room for it in our house. I can't seem to bring myself to let go of it, so it sits in our crowded guest room, collecting dust and preventing us from having the space to actually accomodate overnight guests.

This is a small example, but when I look at the world around me, I see big examples just like it. How many people aren't willing to give up the huge houses that cost them more than they can really afford? How many aren't willing to drive a less impressive car because they fear what conclusions others might draw about them?

How ridiculous can we get?

I've been mulling over that quote of Burkett's for a couple of weeks now. Pride is at the core of what he was writing about, which is kind of funny when you think about it. We're so busy being prideful of what we already own (tangible or intangible), that we're often not willing to give things up to experience something even better that God has in store for us. It kind of alludes to that great paradox of Christianity which is losing life in order to gain it. Sometimes we have to be willing to let go of something in our lives to receive something even better.

The fear of the Lord leads to life:
Then one rests content, untouched by trouble.
Proverbs 19:23 (emphasis mine)


Joy of Frugal Living said...

Good post. :)

AnneK said...

That was so lovely to read. I am not going to add anything, I think you said it very well.

Anonymous said...

Wow! I continue to be impressed with your insight and your skill at articulating profound thoughts. You would be great at writing devotionals. Today's post is certainly a good start.
With love from your Mama.

LLMajer said...

This is a fantastic post! I've mulled over some of these same thoughts as well. You make a brilliant presentation and with humor as well because I completely understand living in image-obsessed north Texas! Blessings to you and yours.

Amy W said...

Are you sure you weren't in my church listening to the sermon I was listening to? Be content. And I live in Johnson County, KS - the wealthiest county in the US (per capita). I am constantly worried about bringing up my girls in this environment - very different from the one I was brought up in! Trying very hard not to spoil them, teaching them contentment. It's hard.

A. said...

I'm going to second Anne :)


Meredith@MerchantShips said...

Great post. I love how you pointed out that hanging on to things can actually keep you from making space for others.

I am in the process of making myself let go of anything I haven't used recently.

It's harder emotionally than anything else.

mermaid2884 said...

thanks for the reminder! it is so hard to let go.

MrsKamorri said...

As the late Rich Mullins wrote, "I'd rather fight You for something I don't really want than take what You give and I need."

As a Navy brat I grew up moving around a lot. The stuff we had was the constant, as well as our family of course, but our environment changed all the time and my stuff was really important to me. In other words, I was a packrat and I still am. Thanks for the reminder to knock it off already :)

Relishing Life said...

Great post! What a wonderful reminder!

Joanne Brown said...

I know this is an old post, but I'm flicking through your blog :) Anyway, just wanted to say that this post certainly strikes a chord with me! I have a book entitled 'You can never have enough of what you don't need - the quest for contentment'. It's written by an LDS author so comes from that perspective. It sounds very similar to what you have been reading. The basic premise is that you can keep acquiring more and more 'stuff', but you will never feel you have enough as it's not material things that bring contentment. It's spiritual things that fill the void. We also feel like the 'poor relations' at our church - our parking lot is filled with BMW's, Mercedes, Jaguars, Porsche and here am I with my 2001 Ford Focus! So working on feeling content is something I'm always conscious of! Wow, epic comment from me, lol!!