It's the day after Christmas and we're in Toys R Us. I feel my throat swelling inside of me. It's the last place in the world I want to be after two days of massive, sickening consumption. Our children received everything on their wish lists and yet, they want more.
And we're not alone. The store is packed with children all marching through the isles, Christmas gift money in hands, dying to spend, spend, spend. Never mind what's already lining their rooms - it's not enough.
My heart breaks inside of me as I whisper the truth to our children later:
Do you see it here, right here in front of us? We have received everything we thought we wanted, and now, the very next day, we want more and more. Because things can't make us happy. Greed is never satisfied.
My heart has been troubled over Christmas this year for more reasons than one. The consumption, the craziness, the busy, do-this-do-that nature of the season. For the last week, I had literally no time to do anything but prepare for the 'celebrations'. Yet the greatest irony is this - through all the preparation and stress, I found myself further from God, with less time to reflect, less time to pray, less time to focus on what matters to Him.
The focus shifts. All of a sudden I find myself in a Mall. I haven't been in a mall for over a year but oh, we have to celebrate Jesus - so a Mall-shopping we will go. It just doesn't make any sense. And my heart is heavily burdened, friends.
This morning we woke up to a house of mess. Heaps of stuff lay everywhere. Clothes spilling out of drawers, toys tossed in messy piles in corners of every room. My head was aching and my soul crying out for relief from all this STUFF.
We've got new stuff.
We've got old stuff.
We've got toy stuff.
We've got clothing stuff.
We've got art stuff.
We've got building stuff.
We've got decorative stuff.
We even found stuff we never knew we had.
So, we cleansed. For the millionth time, we took piles and piles of clothing and old toys and you name it away and tried to make space for fresh air.
These are the times my whole being laments. I feel sorrow deep down, way down deep. Sorrow for our very, very much and the millions with very, very little. Sorrow that STUFF crowds out the Living God in our life until He's but a faint whisper. I realize it wickedly deep this year:
At Christmas, I fear I'm teaching my children to consume until they are bursting at the seams.
Even though we do the Jesus-things, we focus on scripture, we have a little nativity set, we talk about grace and love coming down and all those Christmasy things. But it feels misplaced. We make hand-made gifts, we try and try to keep things simple, we bake, we cuddle, we enjoy family time and its beautiful. But, somehow, everything shifts just enough to make room for sin. The stuff crowds out the rest. It's unsettling and I'm really starting to question.
Even though my heart wants desperately to live completely differently, the mess of this Christmas season seeps in and makes a home for greed and wanting. Yes, no matter what I aspire to be, I'm not her and I'm a contributor to this earth's broken, unequal reality.
Because we want and want and want, others have not, eat not, live not.
The truth is plain. If we don't like it, it's because we don't want to accept that we are part of this broken planet's problem. If there was no greed, there would be no one starving. No child trapped in prostitution, no mother weeping over her dying child.
There's a popular Christmas message.
And because we fill with stuff - we empty of Christ. And when we empty of Christ there is less of Him to pour out. The more and more we pile up in our homes, the further and further from the Truth we travel. The Christ-life was never about our earthly stuff - it was about caring nothing for the world and wanting Christ more than anything.
So, how can I claim to love God with all my heart, if I also love stuff?
I can't. Something's gotta give.
And that's why my heart is bursting. This whole world is broken and our hearts are broken and we try to mend them with all the wrong things. Even when we say we don't need stuff or want stuff our actions tell a different story. Even when we think we are living a simpler life, our life is richly abundant compared to most. Even if none of our stuff runs on batteries - our child has 23 long sleeved shirts and a child in India walks naked.
Our daughter has over 25 stuff animals and all little girls dream of is snuggling only one special toy in their whole childhood.
People go hungry and I eat when I'm full.
We do love stuff. Period.
Guilty as charged. Of the sinners, I am the worst.
Oh friends, my soul is crying out for less stuff. More of the Lord, less of everything else. That is my passionate prayer for 2014.
Less stuff so there is more and more room for what really matters.
More of the One who cleans all slates and makes us new. Because I need new beginnings this year. I need a fresh start. I need to be where Truth is found.
I desperately need to hold tight to the Peace He graciously embeds deep within.
In that place is where the things of this earth fade fast compared to the radiant glory of His mercy and grace. What can compare to knowing and serving the Living God? Yahweh - God unchanging?
Nothing. Nothing compares. No matter how many things we consume - stuff, entertainment, food, drink - whatever it is... it is empty.
He is the only true filler.
He alone can come and dwell in the empty places. He alone can patch up the mess of our hearts. He alone will realign the cosmos and set all this world right.
His justice will prevail.
Every once of anything earthly will be blasted away and nothing will remain. I know this but do I live this?
Asking the hard questions tonight, friends... and praying we can all find wide open space for His love and His guiding today, this week, this year, and always.