I have already encountered ugly, ugly things in my own heart as I’ve been on this road to simplicity.
I’m not sure anything can really prepare you to confront the ugliest parts of yourself, except for Jesus and faith. Even for all the instances where I’ve shown a lack of faith (too many to even remember), somehow, faith still lives in me. Even if I can’t see through the mire of “right now”, I still hold the unwavering truth that “Jesus is in this somewhere.” And the only explanation is Jesus Himself, living in me!
The first ugly thing that I had to confront in myself on this journey was a very real desire for wealth and earthly possessions. A new car, a bigger house, more this, more that. I am
ashamed of myself, I truly am. The thing is, though, I always felt uncomfortable about it, even before I could really admit that something was wrong. I was defensive if I read something that hinted I wasn’t on the right track. I found ways to legitimize what I wanted. And I know I still fall into this thinking from time to time!
But at some point, I admitted I was uncomfortable with myself and a profound change took place. I read Andy Stanley’s book “How to Be Rich” in which he discusses that by the WORLD’S standards, most every American IS
ALREADY RICH. “Rich” doesn’t just mean Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerburg. It means you and me. (You can find a link to the book on my Suggested Reading page.) The thing is, it never FEELS like that because in our culture, the normal way of life is to “climb the ladder” and make more to get more. On to the next! Bigger and better! Think about all the publications and advertisements that exist just to make sure you know that you DON’T quite have it ALL just yet. You still need this, that or the other thing. It’s quite normal to start making more, then immediately adjust to that increase by spending more as well. In fact, that’s pretty hard NOT to do for most of us.
Then, I learned during a sermon at our church about a website where you can enter your salary and see how your income and/or wealth compares with the rest of the world. My Husband’s salary alone was among the highest incomes of the world’s population. That day in church, our pastor also told us that most Christians spend more on pet food than they do giving. He also talked about how so many of us live beyond our means thanks to the magic of CREDIT CARDS, and challenged us to think about how much we have that we don’t need, as well as how much we COULD give if it weren’t for the debt we’d racked up. Maybe we don’t need a plan to get out of debt as much as we need to re-evaluate our lifestyles. Ouch.
The Lord was giving me a heavy dose of reality and perspective. Thinking in global terms shook me out of what felt like a half-awake stupidity. OF COURSE there was more to life than calculating how much MORE money we’d need to get the stuff we wanted. Now I wasn’t sitting around thinking about what I DIDN’T have–I was marveling at what I DID have and how it was truly far beyond what I had originally believed. Compared to the WORLD, we have over-the-top, without a doubt, unquestionably MORE THAN ENOUGH.
De-cluttering led me to disbelief at how much I still had. Beginning to tidy up and journaling my experiences here has brought intense gratitude and appreciation for the items that we own. In fact, the more I really think and study in global terms, the more over-the-top our American way of life seems.
My husband and I watched a documentary on Netflix called “Living on One Dollar.” It chronicles a group of guys who traveled to rural Guatemala and attempted to live there among the people on one dollar per day. When the documentary was over, I was silent for a moment as I reflected on just how stark a difference there was between that rural, farm community life and my own life. We had gone to COSTCO that day, for crying out loud! It is sobering to think yours or my “typical” American life is something that is so very very foreign to so many.
How materially blessed we Americans are leads to hard questions. Why was I born in America, while someone else was born in a place like rural Guatemala, fighting to survive on an average of one dollar a day? Should I feel guilty for what we have? What am I going to do with the knowledge that there are people surviving with SO MUCH LESS than I have? Do we pack up and go on mission trips? Do we sell all our possessions, get that tiny house and go full minimalist after all? IS IT BAD TO WANT THINGS?
These are undoubtedly difficult questions, most of which I cannot answer. What I do
know is that Jesus is somewhere to be found in each and every one of them. I know that some of these questions have led me right here, sitting on the floor in my bedroom typing this blog post. One of my favorite things about God is that He’s always working; always leading. He knows what’s around the bend, and the bend after that. There is purpose, even when we can’t see it or comprehend it. So again, I’m saying: choose to be grateful today, and keep your eyes and ears open for the Lord. Read a new book. Watch a documentary. If you never have, think about how you live vs. how the world lives. I mean REALLY think about it. You may have to look at something a little ugly on a page or a screen (and maybe in the mirror), but it will begin change you in the best possible ways.