I can't get no satisfation...
If we discover a desire within
us that nothing in this world can satisfy, also we should begin to wonder if perhaps we were created for
Most of this series will be pretty darn practical.
Not today. Be prepared. This is a long post.
Today, I'm going to tell you about my heart issue with stuff. Although stuff is neutral (like money), trusting it to provide my happiness or contentment will lead to dissatisfaction.
It's plain ugly. I've had times in my life where I hardly thought about what I had. I've had other times when I was obsessed about it. I've given out of guilt because I felt sick about the amount of stuff I had. I've hoarded stuff because I thought I deserved it. I've held bitterness in my heart for others because I was envious of what they had. I've been prideful for what I had and smug when someone else looked envious of me.
My desire for stuff or pride about I did own was strong and consuming. I got fed up with it and wanted to stop stuff from being such a distraction or source of pride. I wasn't sure whether I was supposed to give it all away, give a little, or simply ignore it. It was a problem.
And I kept trying to solve my problem. But, I couldn't.
You see, I was trying to be the seed and the farmer. I was trying to be the pottery and potter. I was trying to be the thread and the weaver. And it wasn't working.
There was no plant. No pot. And no tapestry. All I had was dried out seed, a lump of clay, and tangled thread. I was frustrated that I couldn't make myself more generous and giving. I couldn’t make myself stop wanting all this stuff. I always felt like I wasn't doing enough.
And then I started to pray for help. I prayed that God would open my eyes to needs. I prayed that he would show me how to love others more deeply. I asked that I better understood His grace. Even though I knew that I couldn't do it by myself, I still tried. But when I gave in and sought Him, my perspective altered.
Suddenly, I felt compelled to meet needs. I saw needs. I wanted to give. I wanted to love others. I wanted to seek Him. I wanted His words.
I was astonished when I began to see my stuff in this new light. I started to see it as a resource instead of a stumbling block or source of frustration. I began to notice how so much of what I had could be used with intentionality and purpose. I also realized I didn’t need so much of it and the excess was easy to let go. I started to delight in using my stuff for meeting needs or supporting others.
No longer was it just stuff; it was a need-meeter. It was a gift. It was a way to connect with others. It was God's provision to us.
Yes, it is just stuff. Fading. Non-eternal. Living in Switzerland.
But, God has given it to me and I can use it. Generously. Willingly. Joyfully.
Yet, even as God kneads this perspective into my clay and weaves this idea into my being, I am often still distracted by stuff. I find myself wanting more and wanting what I don't have--pining for better clothes, a nicer place to live, or those cute shoes. The cravings for those temporary and fleeting objects act as weeds in my heart. If I start to let them invade, they take over the joy that God offers me and they stick me with thorns of envy or discontentment.
Discontentment is fed with envy and jealousy. It is fed when I decide to stop seeking God as the source my satisfaction. Even though what I have can be such a wonderful gift, it can easily become a tangled mess of distraction.
So, I thought, if discontentment brews when my eyes are focused on what I don't have, then what is contentment seeped from?
I asked Him. Lord, how can I cultivate contentment? How can I avoid being sucked into the lie that all my stuff, this fleeting and temporary stuff, provides happiness?
The answer came. He continued to water. To weave. To mold.
Adoration. Gratefulness. Seeking. Love. Trust.
I breathed it in. Adore Him. Be thankful. Seek Him. Love Him. Love others. Trust Him to meet all my needs.
So simple. So beautiful.
Amazingly, as I turn my heart to him and adore, this stuff starts to look like what it really is. Dust. It doesn't mean that I never desire anything new--because I do. What it does mean is that He is more. He is enough. In my adoration, I don't believe that those new items will satisfy my heart. They may satisfy a need. They may provide comfort or convenience. But, they will never bring true joy.
Can I be honest with you for a moment? Sometimes I forget about this in the shoe aisle. As I'm trying on a cute pair of pumps that are more than I can afford, I feel a thorn poke me in the side. Why can't you have those? If you buy these, I bet you'll feel better about yourself. Maybe more people will like you if you wear those shoes?
In those moments, I stop. I remember what God has shown me. Suddenly, those shoes aren't very important. They are just shoes--not a ticket to total "populardom" and more self-worth.
What I want to make clear, though, is that wanting stuff is not bad in itself. Yet, I believe that putting our hope, our identity, our trust, our worth, and our source of joy in what I have or want to have is wrong. Unfortunately, in our consumeristic society, it is very easy to do. Thankfully, I have a God who is worth my hope, identity, trust, and joy. If I to wander into too-many-things-yet-never-content-with-what-I-have land, He can lead me out.
You may be fighting this idea. You may be thinking that I’m one of those people who think we should all live in a tiny house and eat rice and beans. You may think that I’m going to spend the rest of the series asking you to give up everything you have.
Well, I’m not.
I am, however, going to ask you to fight the “if, then” thinking with me. For example:
If I had that house, then I would invite people over.
If I had those shoes, then I would feel better about myself.
If my kids wear cuter clothes, then they would have more friends.
If I buy this new rug for the living room, then I would like living here.
When I think about this, I often think about a commercial I saw at Christmas-time one year. The car commercial begins with a woman jumping with joy over her new car in the driveway. In the next shot, another (supposedly nicer) car drives by. Instantly, the woman looks at her new car with dissatisfaction.
This commercial annoyed me to the core. It also showed me the ugliness of what happens we believe the lie that our stuff equals happiness or satisfaction. Even though the woman had a beautiful, brand new car she felt instantly dissatisfied because she saw something better.
This happens to me. I get one thing and yet something better always seems to pop up.
Maybe you are wondering why I am getting all “spiritual” about stuff.
I think that before I can move on into the practical, I have to deal with the issue of why I have so much stuff and why I tend to want so much of it. If I want to simplify my life and be more generous and intentional, I have to be willing to let some of it go. In order to avoid the cycle of collecting, purging, regretting, etc, I need to deal with the core. The real issue.
You see, even though I am surrounded by all this stuff, life is not about this stuff. It’s about Him. Until that is stained upon my heart, I will always be anxious to run towards stuff, to never believe I have enough, to put my hope in what I have, and to continuously feel stabbed with envy and discontentment.
Maybe you are thinking this is just a little too deep--or that I'm over-analyzing the situation.
Like I said in the first post, I'm not an expert. I'm learning. This is simply my experience.
I'd love to know what you guys think about this? Do you relate? Maybe to some parts more than others? Do you completely disagree? I'm itching to know!