The Christmas season always brings about a lot of introspection for my husband and myself. It’s a time that we love, but we also struggle with, as we are trying to separate ourselves from the consumerism, waste, and self focus that comes with the holidays, and yet embrace the love and warmth and togetherness of the season.
Last night, after our final Christmas gathering with our extended family, we stayed up, decompressing in some ways, cuddled up under a warm blanket, sharing our reflections from the season.
During the day, one of my husband’s family members stated, “I guess we make a lot of money, but I sure don’t feel like we do”.
For some reason, it struck me, and I found myself thinking about it later on in the evening.
Before we had children, we enjoyed a dual income, one from a well paying job, and were on our way to moving up the ladder toward a life of affluence and obtaining the all-coveted “american dream”. During this time, I somehow found myself overly stressed and worried about how much money we had, even though we made nearly 4 times as much as we make now. I always felt like we didn’t make enough or have enough in the bank, and found myself trying to buy and do certain things to present myself as if we had more than we really did. We felt like we couldn’t spend any money, and yet we spent way too much. There was always such a sense of pressure to protect the things we owned and create for ourselves a sense of security through having more.
After thinking about this, I realized that I have now come to believe the opposite of the above statement: we don’t make a lot of money (in comparison to others around us), but I sure feel like we do.
I may have less money to spend, but I also have less things I want to spend it on.
I have given away more things this year than I ever have before, and you know what? I couldn’t tell you what half of them were anymore, and I wonder how I ever thought they were important to own. With having less physical items, I find that I am freer and spend less time organizing and maintaining them.
I am learning that within community, there is more than enough to go around, and I don’t have to own something to be happy or enjoy it.
I am rich in time, relationships, and creativity. I may have to work harder at some things (i.e. buying less processed foods = making more things from scratch, thus more time in the kitchen), and we spend our time differently, but I no longer have to carve time out for family time, we enjoy time together as we work and play together as a family. We have been given in abundance the things we need and so much more, and have even been able to bless others with our resources. We have redefined what are needs and wants in our lives, and I don’t feel deprived in any form. In fact, I only wish we could give more.
I tell our son all the time that we are rich as kings. Just imagine if our belongings and lifestyle were transplanted to another country. Say, Haiti or Africa. We would be as rich as kings, our home like a castle. In Haiti, most people live on less than 2 US dollars a day.
2 dollars a day.
And yet, how much do we spend just on Christmas gifts for our families, in addition to the wants and needs we can easily afford throughout the year? Easily justified by low prices and wanting to recreate childhood memories or make ones we never had.
It’s true, our lifestyle choices may not make much difference worldwide. Choosing to not shop at Walmart or only buying fairtrade foods may not stop people from dying of starvation in other countries. But, is that the point?
In his book, The Upside-down Kingdom, Donald B. Kraybill writes,
“Curtailing consumption isn’t a panacea for world hunger. Buying less steak at the local supermarket won’t push more protein into third-world pantries. As Christians, we consume less not because it’s always an effective solution to world hunger, but because it’s the morally responsible thing to do. We’re accountable not for grandiose solutions to world problems but for our personal obedience to our knowledge of the gospel.” (p. 134)
I imagine that there are many others who may look at us and say, “easy for you to say”.
Because I have never had to deal with losing a loved one, major grief, or any sort of lifetime affliction. For the most part, I have always succeeded in the things I have set out to do. There have been disappointments in my life and in myself, but nothing devastating. So yes, in many ways, this is an easy thing for me to say. It is obvious to me and always has been my entire life.
Because I have always believed in a different economy.
Not one based on building up bank accounts and corporations and hoarding reserves for when disaster strikes, but one based upon Kingdom values, which as Don Kraybill points out in his book, seem upside down to us: putting others first, being humble, generosity, trust in a God who knows what we need when we need it and allowing Him to provide it when we do.
Has the close of the Christmas season and upcoming year caused you to rethink any areas of your life in challenging and possibly, uncomfortable ways? What areas are you hoping to see change this year?
The Upside-down Kingdom by Donald B. Kraybill
Interrupted by Jen Hatmaker
The Irresistable Revolution By Shane Claiborne