Tonight I began the annual odyssey of trying to find the perfect presents for my favorite people coinciding with Yuletide, better known as Christmas shopping. About halfway through my little shopping trip, I stopped into a brand new HomeGoods store that had opened up close by my office. If you’re not familiar with HomeGoods, basically it’s a medium sized department store that discounts last years models of designer products for the home like furniture, kitchenware, bedding, bath accessories, and more. It can be a good place to find high quality stuff for your home.
As I walked through the store, it wasn’t long before things started catching my attention. Now, I have all that I need at my house, but most of what’s in my house by way of home furnishings is not exactly top of the line. So, like most people, I was pretty enamored by all of the things I could buy. Stainless steel trash cans, new shower curtains and towels, wall decor, candles, kitchen accessories… you get the idea. I looked at the price tags and thought, “I can afford this.” I touched them and thought, “I could really use this” and “this would go well with what I’m trying to do with x room.”
But then reality set in and I started thinking about all of the reasons why I shouldn’t buy any of these things. The happiness they would bring wouldn’t last, they cost money I could spend on something else, they aren’t worth the stress of trying to make up for any financial shortfalls in another area of my life, etc. Have you ever been there? I’m sure most of us have at some point in time or another. If you haven’t, either you have far more money than you possibly need OR you’re in for a very rude awakening at some point in the future.
I constantly wrestle with this dynamic of wanting things and being frugal. I try to be wise and realistic about how to best manage my financial resources, but being hit with marketing messages all day long makes it really easy to day dream about having more stuff. Then I think, “what if I did have all that stuff?” I say that just because I know how difficult it can sometimes be to resist the temptation of buying something that we don’t need. There was nothing at the store I saw that I wouldn’t want to take home, I liked it all! But, the reality is that I just can’t feel good about buying that stuff. Unfortunately, the inner tension left me feeling somewhat melancholy. A part of me really wanted to spend money and the other part of me really just wanted to not feel like I really wanted that stuff. Deep down I was just thirsting for a sense of contentment with what I do have.
I’m not sure that we as human beings were made to be consumers of more than what we need. If you take the human body for instance, over consumption leads to a whole host of medical problems, chiefly that of obesity. You can’t tell me that if God wanted us to eat as much as we possibly could every day, just like a bear might right before hibernation, that we would experience life-threatening conditions as a result. The human body; muscles, joints, organs, etc., just wasn’t designed to handle a large amount of extra weight.
Look at what consuming stuff actually does to us. Once we buy something, we have to worry about maintaining it and protecting it from damage or theft. We buy maintenance products and protection plans left and right. We take out insurance policies to recover from loss if something catastrophic were to ever happen to our stuff too. That’s not to say that protecting your stuff is a bad thing, honestly I think stewardship is great! However, it is to say that the more we buy, the more we have to worry about. I don’t think we were made for that.
So at the end of the day what does this all mean? Honestly I don’t know. I’m not sure I’ll ever know. I wonder what the appropriate balance for giving vs spending is for someone like me. I wonder how I can better maintain my focus and not get bogged down by life’s marketing messages. I ask what we were made for. Maybe you too, are asking the same questions right about now. Maybe you’re having difficulty navigating all of the marketing messages you’re being hit with this time a year. Who knows? But if you do have a story to tell, please share it, I’m all ears.