Continued thoughts from the previous post: Change takes courage
Our Church is studying Pauls letter to the Colossians. The Colossians were new Christians and were mixing the Christian faith with all the other religions they were exposed to and blending them into one. Back then their spiritual agenda might’ve looked like Jesus + Voodoo + Elemental Forces (the Spirits that control wind, earth, fire, water) = Spiritual Fullness.
The problem is that it’s easy to blend it together, but it’s so hard to un-blend it. Worse yet, Clay and I didn’t even realize that we were blending anything at all. Blissfully unaware that we were fusing two different world views. Church + upward mobility + a raise + a house + lots of “fun” money to spend on traveling, and West Elm, and dining out = us.
(Watch the full sermon here!)
Instead of having the discernment and courage to go against the grain, we were just trying to insert our faith into it all. That’s a scary place to be as Christians. I often forget that I’m explicitly instructed NOT to do this. I’m supposed to set myself apart from the world. I shouldn’t worry or care about what I’m wearing or eating. So then why do I? Why do I torment myself?
We’ve heard the warning, “we can’t serve both God and money.” But instead of focusing on my own heart sometimes I find myself thinking “Oh, that makes me think of my friend Joe, thank God I don’t care about ____ like he does.” And I’m sorry. That’s my bad. So I’ve stopped pointing my fingers at my imaginary friend Joe and started being honest with myself. Humbling myself daily. “Hi, my name is Katie. This is Clay. And we struggle with envy and greed and materialistic tendencies.” There, I said it. Did anyone else show up to materialistics anonymous tonight? Just us? Yikes. Are we the only ones?
All imaginary friends and fake support groups aside, we have real friends who summed up our recent pull towards minimalism. Our friends are understandably strict about their toddlers sugar intake. “On special occasions we’ll treat her to a special dessert but then an hour later she just gets cranky and throws tantrums. And we just think “Why do you want this stuff if you don’t even like it?!””
I did this. Buying things I didn’t even like or need. I would spend a lot of time researching things on Amazon so I could get the best bang for my buck and then eventually be let down. “Why doesn’t this mop work like the other reviewers promised?” i.e. “Why is our house still a mess?!” I would complain about having nothing to wear. “Hmm, good thing Anthropolgie sells clothes!” but a few days later I’d realize I actually do have nice clothes, it’s just that someone needed to do the laundry. “All these living rooms on Pinterest are so put together. I need more texture and decor to really pull our house together.” And then a year later I’d be back buying different home goods because my style changed.
The good news is that it doesn’t have to be this way forever. I can rewire myself. I can break the cycle. (Don’t make a Matrix reference. Don’t make a Matrix reference…)
Then I was reminded that I’m supposed to break the cycle. God tells us to put our sin to death. Kill it. Dig it a grave and bury it. The imagery he uses here is HARDCORE. Forgive all the movie references but I’m picturing a Quentin Tarantino scene here. Putting my sin to death, Kill Bill style. This includes all sin, not just materialism. Everything. Kill it.
Clay and I were in the Matrix, and we’re Keanu Reeves’ing our way out. (Dang it!)
We can try to stop the bullets before they hit. Because first and foremost I want our lives to match the biblical model opposed to our past ambitions of financial and material gain.
I don’t think it’s a coincidence that our lives have improved radically since minimizing (i.e. realigning our paths to Christ’s). So here’s the juicy part. The proof in the pudding. The reassurance that Clay and I are back on track:
- We are happier overall. I know that sounds lame and elusive but just trust us.
- Our marriage is thriving at a rate I didn’t know was possible. More open, more honest, more communicative, more grace. Is there any couple that doesn’t want to be more like Chip & Joanna Gaines. #relationshipgoals am I right?!
- Side note. Chip & Joanna remind me a lot of my HS youth pastor and his wife (who are still as funny as I remember). They were Chip & Joanna before it was “trendy.”
- Spiritual growth is astronomical. Our prayers are more meaningful and less hollow, and our spiritual understanding in general has just sky-rocketed. It’s like coming home from Church camp on a spiritual high, except that the excitement is sustained. I know seasons come and go, and we’ve had bad ones too, but overall our spiritual relationship is on the up and up and up and up.
I know a lot of these are intangible. But here’s one that might raise some eyebrows:
- Our bank accounts have grown two…almost three fold, in a year despite donating and giving away more money, time, and resources than ever before. It’s so weird that when we stopped focusing on financial gain, we gained the most. It’s so crazy it’s almost inexplicable. Sure, we cut back on frivolous spending, but not “three folds” worth. If our tripling bank account wasn’t enough to get our attention, here are just a few specific financial blessing testimonies:
- Several (3 or more) surprise bonuses here and there. Most of them perfectly timed when our finances were particularly out of balance.
- Inexpensive, creative solutions presented themselves in fixing things that might have otherwise been an expensive replacement or repair. Like our garage door, like our lawn mower, like our cars.
- Upgrading to a new car lease with all wheel drive and expecting our monthly payment to increase by $100 or more, but 100% unintentionally negotiating the dealer into only a $10 difference in our monthly payment (We’re still in disbelief by this story so just ask if you want the full scoop!)
- Utility companies mailing us random checks because of an oversight on our account. A billing overage or something? (I still don’t know, ask Clay.)
After the fourth financial gain we realized these are not happy accidents. We remark about it nearly everyday and even though God mentioned this would happen, we have a hard time explaining it.
I promise I’m not making this up. These things just didn’t happen this abundantly a few years ago when we were trying to add our spiritual agenda to the american culture agenda.
I know living biblically isn’t everyones barometer but if materialism/making more money is a primary goal in life, maybe we should rethink it. I think about this quote a lot. It’s cheesy, but relatable. “People may spend their whole lives climbing the ladder of success only to find, once they reach the top, that the ladder is leaning against the wrong wall.” -Thomas Merton, and another writers interpretation. The rich and famous have what we want and tabloids and statistics prove that they’re the happiest people overall, right?
This whole Old vs. New concept feels like one giant slice of humble pie for us. One big prayer that boils down to, “We screwed up! We got mixed up in some things we shouldn’t have. We don’t want to climb this ladder anymore!”
I’m starting to realize that when I truly find my identity in Christ, it naturally takes the glamour and seduction out of my old habits. I understand now that I can’t hold onto the things the old Katie held onto and expect exponential spiritual or personal growth. And, if I don’t experience growth at all, I know I’m doing something wrong.
I can’t serve money and serve God. I tried. It didn’t get me anywhere worth going and I don’t need to get to the end to know that their end goals are radically different.
Regardless of your beliefs, the bottom line is still the same…if we’re unhappy and left thinking “there has to be more to life than this” then we might be investing in the wrong things. Life is too short. We should all take this seriously and find out what or who is worth our investment and what’s holding us back from it all.
If all I had to do was break up with my material attachment to experience the spiritual growth pastors and books and radical testimonies rave about then my next move seems pretty obvious. Anyone know of a good anger/worry/anxiety/fear/impatience support group? I’ll take all the support I can get.