“Susannah, that is not true in the least,” I replied. “You have more than you could ever imagine.”
More tears. Heavier feet. A sulky almost-six-year-old face. I think it’s best to leave well enough alone at this point so I move on.
She has pushed back harder than this in the past and I’ll be real and say that I have explained the term “spoiled brat” to her in these moments. I don’t CALL her a “spoiled brat” but I absolutely can tell her about what this means as a precautionary measure. I have also been known to warn her of any “Veruca Salt-like” behavior. *
The thing is, Susannah is a very loving, compassionate child. She is not a spoiled brat. She cares for others and is worried about those who are less fortunate. She is beautiful on the inside and out.
But now and then, she forgets about the insane amount of stuffed animals she has in her room. She has no idea how blessed she is that she never, ever has to worry about not having enough food to eat. She is able to be clean, her parents support her schooling efforts, and she is loved and delighted-in often.
This is when it hits me: I work in the exact same way.
There are times when I am ready to sell off the stuff we own and head to Africa to be missionaries. I want to empty myself of all of my materialistic desires and feel a nudge to simplify, to go back-to-the-basics and make life a whole lot easier for us all.
But then there are times when I’m cranky because I can’t find a good pair of jeans. My house is too cluttered. My kids never put toys away. My husband is self-centered. I enter a downward spiral of ungratefulness and can practically hear the laughter of the enemy on my descent.
Why do I allow myself to slip into an attitude of despair and ungratefulness when I know I have it so good?
While we are not moving to Africa anytime soon, I recently decided to listen to the nudge asking me to cut down on all of our stuff – to reduce the clutter in my life. In all forms.
I’ve been unsubscribing like crazy to unwanted emails. I quit almost all of my magazine subscriptions. I’m doing laundry on just one day a week and don’t even think about it on the others. I’m getting up to spend time with God. I’m hauling stuff off to Goodwill and passing down to friends.
I feel so much more organized. So much less stressed. So much more freedom.
Don’t get me wrong – I still forget. I still slip into “Debbie Downer” mode now and then and have a pity party for myself in which I’m the only guest invited.
However, it would be remiss to not mention the fact that cutting down on what I once thought would fill me up made me realize that all of the stuff, the things I had to have, actually made me hungrier.
My mind often does go to the people in Third World countries who do not have clean drinking water. Who live in shanties with dirt floors – if that. Who don’t have enough food to eat.
And yet, I remember watching a video clip of these people worshiping our God with a reckless abandon. They were joyful. They were present. They were free.
They needed nothing except Him. The rest took care of itself.
During this time of the year, we often see 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 emerge: Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
Maybe the person who has the least is not the person in the Third World country.
When we have too much and are weighed-down by “stuff”, we lose perspective on rejoicing – instead, we complain when we don’t have it or don’t get it fast enough.
When we think we can buy whatever we want to fill that hole that is God-shaped and can only be filled by Him, we lose the desire to pray to Him.
And lastly, when we are convoluted by all that we have, our feathers get ruffled over things that are so minute it’s almost embarrassing. We cannot possibly give thanks because things are just so bad right now.
Perspective is the great jolt I often need to break me out of this fog and I recently came across a quote by naturalist John Burroughs that is just the tool to remind me of how simple it’s really supposed to be when I feel too cluttered. It reads:
To find the universal elements enough;
to find the air and the water exhilarating;
to be refreshed by a morning walk or an evening saunter;
to be thrilled by the stars at night:
to be elated over a bird’s nest or a wildflower in spring …
these are some of the rewards of the simple life.
Perhaps this is why people in Third World nations are able to worship without inhibition, pray continually, and seem to be overflowing with gratitude.
The rewards of the simple life really are that simple. And abundant.
Happy Thankgiving to you and yours. May your spirit be filled with the things He created, may you feel His love for you through this simplicity, and may you stop to be in the moment, to be present, and still.
* Veruca Salt is that spoiled little girl in “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” that says “I want an Oompah-Loompah and I want it nooowww….” in a really whiny, annoying voice. Blech.