Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Battling My Inner Materialist

It's funny how certain situations find you reflecting inwardly, isn't it? For instance, in the past month, I've been laid off and enjoying unemployment while my new job gets up and running, we're in the groove toward closing on our first house, and we've started back to church. It's quite a batch of experiences to work with, right?

Well, as I've interacted with each one of these areas, I've noticed within myself what I'm certain is a not so unique trait, and that is my latent materialism. Now, I'm not one who's particularly attached to things. Like, I don't believe that my life would be over if some of my books were lost or if I couldn't get that movie right away. In fact, unemployment has made me test these theories, with stuff like season five of The Office hitting stores as well as today's release of X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Now, as much as I'd have liked to, I didn't hit the stores for my copies of these because it wasn't wise.

And as I've had this downtime of unemployment/waiting, I've taken the opportunity to do some packing, some rummaging through things, and have actually been fine getting rid of some things, of trashing some and giving others away. If it's of no use or interest to me, I don't need it. And one thing our last move showed us was that removing any and all clutter is a good thing. It's liberating to have less in some respects, for it opens up the doorways to a freedom of thought and ease. Good things both.

But, I don't know what it is, whether it's idle times while I wait, boredom, or a lack of faith, or simply pure greed, but I keep finding myself longing for that next thing. Just this morning I was perusing emusic (a great site for music lovers, well worth the investment) and found myself looking for more music to add to my collection. But the problem is, it was adding the albums to my 'saved' file so I could reference back to them later when I had the opportunity/credits to download them. It's a neverending battle!

The same is true of my on again, off again relationship with my Amazon wishlist. What began as a honest attempt to help folks out wondering what to get me for Christmas and birthdays has also now become my den of avarice. I can simply spend way more time than I should bouncing from one thing to another, wishing and wanting. And they're good things that I want, for sure, but do I really need them?

And there's the rub in the ointment. Because the answer, of course, is a resounding "no." Do I want them? Sure! But need is another story. It's so easy to forget how blessed we are. I'm sitting here typing this random personal blah-blah-blah on a laptop that was given to us, connected to the Internet whereby I can access tons and tons of information, sitting in an air conditioned house with a fridge and cupboard full of goodies and a supermarket just down the road and money in the bank (albeit not as much as I'd prefer) to buy those items in a pinch. I have a television, a Playstation 2 (and yes, I'm still longing for a PS3 and their dropping the price this month definitely upped my materialism ante) with tons of games, satellite television, a desktop computer, and more music and movies than I know what to do with.

Even more important, I'm married to an amazing woman, one who loves me and cares for me like no other. I have two beautiful children who, while being precocious and challenging, bring me more joy than I could have ever thought possible. I'm blessed with great parents and in-laws, and as my experience with Facebook has reminded me, a plethora of friends that are easy to forget sometimes but are so real and great.

And yet I long for more. I long for more possessions, more (I should say any) fame, more this and more that. And why? It'd be easy to say that I don't know, that I don't really understand these inner working of my mind and it's subconscious and, while that's true to a point, it's also not entirely accurate either. I think the simple truth is that, as much as I desire to, I don't find contentment in the places where I really should find contentment. I need to be reminded of the love and the relationship that is mine in Jesus. I need to be reminded of the love and relationship that is mine in my family. I need to be reminded to be thankful and to do so through my giving.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Spending Some Time at 'The Shack'

Recently, I finally got down to reading The Shack. For the unititiated, The Shack is a Christian novel written about a man whose daughter is kidnapped and murdered. After some time, he finds himself drawn back to the last place where she was known to be, the shack, and he meets up with God in a way that he would never have imagined. The book made the New York Times bestsellers as well as ignited a flurry of controversy, with many taking offense at some of the books theological thoughts as well as plot devices. In short, it's a book that lots of people seemed to flock to and that got a lot of conversation, good and bad, going. The popularity kept me from it for a time but unemployment and time opened up the door and I finally got it read.

Let me first say that I'm sure that some of my more theologically astute friends and brethren will take me to task here but I really didn't have many issues with the book as a whole. It's not War and Peace by any means but it does possess a compelling story and some keen perceptions on both life and faith. I personally really enjoyed the concepts of God appearing in three persons to the chief character and especially enjoyed the appearance of God the Father initially as a saucy African-American woman. Likewise, I really enjoyed the assertions that Jesus was not a "Christian." That's something that will certainly cause some eyebrows to raise but when we think about it, He really wasn't. There's so much that I could elaborate on there but, I just won't...

I guess the thing that hit me the most with The Shack was the idea that God really does love us. I know that's the most simple of truths and is the one that we're supposed to really learn early on but for myself, as I've gotten older, it's also the one that's harder to believe. I guess with age, experience, and failure after failure, big or small. the love of Christ is something that we consciously know but don't always believe. The Shack offers up a different perspective on that, showing a God who does love us, who does care for us, and even weeps with us in our sorrow. It's nothing terribly original but I can certainly see why folks have gravitated toward it.