I have been totally slacking on the blog but things have been busy, busy! This summer I started reading Sophie Kinsella/Madeline Wickham books. I admit that I’m a little of a book fanatic but it takes me a while to find an author I like and then I’m all in. I read her Twenties Girl in an airport in May and have loved her books ever since. They really should make a movie on Can You Keep a Secret? Hilarious and priceless.
Anyway, even though I love her writing, I have been hesitant to begin the Shopaholic series. Not because it doesn’t look cute and yes, I know about the movie, but I’ve never seen it. I just saw that there was a whole series – Shopaholic Takes Manhattan, Shopaholic Ties the Knot, Shopaholic and Sister, Shopaholic and Baby…wowzers. As a sometimes, if it’s the beginning of the month and there’s still a little bit of money in the account, shopaholic – I knew that starting to read these would just feed that shopaholic tendency and I was correct. When I first preached a sermon about this two weeks ago I had only gotten the first book and read it but now I’m all the way to Shopaholic and Baby and I don’t even entirely know how I got there but they were just so good!
The lectionary has been following 1 Timothy and 2 Timothy a good bit over the past couple of weeks and I’ve enjoyed looking at those texts and pondering them. Paul’s instructions to Timothy are both practical and full of love. He’s not just mentoring Timothy in a hands-off let me tell you what to do way, he’s actually being honest and truthful about highs and lows and good and bad with him.
In 1 Timothy 6:6-19, the thing that stood out the most to me was this talk of contentment. Contentment is one of those things that people long for and try all sorts of things to attain, but it often can feel a little elusive as well. There’s just something about that Shopaholic tendency or that joy from a purchase especially if it’s on clearance or buy 1 get 1 free – something about that feeling of satisfaction that gives us that momentary satisfaction of feeling like heck yeah, I just got something really fabulous and now I feel good about myself – where I am and who I am. And it’s something that we sadly can pass down. Enoch, our 3 year old, now can ask for Target by name – and that is a sad, sad thing. I don’t want him to just be looking for the next shiny toy.
There’s so much in our society that supports this thinking – from The Secret craze – the law of attraction that we can will things into being if we believe them and call them towards us. Or even things in a Christian context – like the Prayer of Jabez craze less than a decade ago. There’s something about these mindsets if you just believe enough, if you just do blank enough then x, y, z will happen and your life will be perfect.
But it just doesn’t seem to always work like that. Or maybe it just does for Oprah. Sometimes it doesn’t matter how much you will something to be so, or how much you want something – it ain’t happening. Stuff is not permanent. These things that we’re grasping for are not permanent. Even the very cute purple pocketbook that I got on sale at Target and am holding out to use because it is adorable – is not permanent. It will tear up and be filled up with junk and worn out just like all of my other pocketbooks.
Paul is asking Timothy to think about wants versus needs. We all know Maslow’s hierarchy of needs – like basic human needs such as shelter, food, etc. to more advanced emotional needs like self-esteem, respect and creativity. One of the students last week was writing a paper for her psychology class and it was all about what shapes one’s personality. In many ways she was asking – where do we find contentment? Who tells us who we are? Who do we listen to? Whether it’s parents or friends or peer group or media or whatever – who tells us we’re okay.
I had another student yesterday email me questions for one of her classes about style and appearance. I admit this took me by surprise. The questions asked about daily beauty routines, how long these things took, and what products did you use. It also asked about how celebrities or media affected these decisions. I admit, when I thought about it – there are some days I am lucky if my hair gets brushed and there’s no make up and just trying to survive and get the kids dressed. But then there are other days – board meeting days, days when I know I’ll see people other than my loving students and on those days I do try to take a shower, pick out my clothes well, and put on some make up. Her last question struck me though – what is your self-esteem without make up and style and what is your self-esteem with it?
What determines how we feel about ourselves? What determines if we are satisfied with our lives? Where do we get this elusive contentment? For the shopaholics out there, you can’t buy contentment in any store. Sadly you can’t even order it on Amazon. It’s not that it’s sold out, it’s just not for sale.
Billy Graham asked people to take out their checkbooks and then said, “A checkbook is a theological document; it will tell you who and what you worship.” That is scary. Or maybe it’s not for some of you. There aren’t many things that we buy that we don’t need or is not a basic utility or food but yes, there is an iced white chocolate from The Coffee Shack on my desk right now. It’s delicious. It’s supporting a local business. It probably has calories out the wazoo but who cares – there’s caffeine. And I need this drink today. We’re going to a protest later on behalf of some amazing women in Nicaragua – and I need the energy. I need this sugary goodness. I need this instantaneous gratification that’s only going to last me a few more sips. That’s throwing around a lot of “needs.”
What is the deal with that? How do we trick ourselves into thinking/manipulating/justifying/rationalizing these things in our minds? Paul is not giving Timothy a recommendation for happiness here, but he’s talking about being content. Having “enough.” What does enough look like to you? If you were like the guy/girl in the movie Leap Year and the fire alarm went off – what would you grab? What really does make you happy – not just for a moment but forever? What makes you even more than just happy – but content? Family? Friends? A job you love? Volunteering where you feel alive? What is it? I hope that Enoch knows and that his Mommy knows that life is much more than the next purchase and that spending an afternoon playing fireman or school bus or hiding in the tent or going to the “choo choo” park or “big” park is priceless.
How do we get past the hugely loud message being played back to us from all sides that we have to have ______ to be satisfied? That we have to have ______ for a meaningful existence?
Our first commandment is to love God. And as Christians we’re not just giving and sharing and opening up to our neighbors what we have just because they’re our neighbors and that’s what we’re called to do – we’re sharing from our abundance because we love God. We love the One who calls us each by name and says that God’s love is more than enough for each of us.
Do you spend each week waiting for the carrot at the end? Do you say to yourself well when _____ happens, then I’ll be able to do _______. If I could make a little more money than I could give to x, y, z. When I pay off such and such, then I’ll be able to…. When I’m not so busy, then I’ll sit down and ask myself – what in my life really brings about this joy that can’t be taken away by chance or circumstance?
Sometimes we lose our way. Sometimes we lose ourselves. Sometimes we lose sight of what we have and the blessings that have been bestowed upon us in the abundant life that Christ gives each of us. Jim Elliot wrote in his journal, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.”
God is faithful to us – even when we crash. Even when our priorities are topsy turvy and our checkbook is blaringly obvious upside down. Who’s approval are we seeking? Friends, co-workers, parents, supervisors, “those” people – or are we striving after the Gospel of our Lord who spurs us forth giving us all the reassurance in the world that we are children of God and that is more than enough? We have to be those supports for one another. One thing I’ve learned even from reading this crazy Shopaholic series – sometimes you have to say a strong but loving word to someone. We need those people that can call us out – in love and grace – but calling out nonetheless. We need people to say – hey – what are you doing? What really matters?
May we continue the journey of discovering who we are in God’s eyes and being sure in that. May we also pick up and love our fellow journeyers as we all walk this road together, remembering that we’re not just called to the lost and the poor around the world, but to those in our communities right beside us who are struggling and looking for answers. May God be faithful in our searches that gives us satisfaction and contentment much more than any fancy pocketbook, awesome car, or even the perfect ______.
Here’s Toby Mac’s “Get Back Up.”
God loves us no matter what and gives us the Word and direction we need…..even when we don’t know where to turn and we’re wondering what in the heck happened.
Here’s Kerrie Roberts, “No Matter What”….