Choosing Life Instead: The Confessions of a Christ-Loving Consumer
I want. I want a lot. All the time.
It is part of who I am, this longing and desire and need and craving. Sometimes wanting is brilliant, and it leads me into connection and fulfillment and wholeness. Sometimes wanting gets me in trouble. Sometimes it kills me slowly and in ways that are hard to see.
I flip around my cable channels and see that hot, gooey pizza on the screen, and they are telling me that I can have that now. It is always available. I feel hungry. Why not eat?
Amazon has started their “Black Friday” holiday shopping deals. Some of them only last five minutes. Can I afford to close the Amazon tab on my phone even for a minute?
If I spend hundreds of dollars at Best Buy on the latest electronic device I can be sure that the person I love will know that she is loved on Christmas morning.
Who doesn’t want that?
I also want to look thinner and actually being thinner would be great, too. Yes, I have noticed that my teeth are yellow, and I’m sure that I would be a better mother if I bought that pot that cleans up in a snap and that turbo-charged blender that will let me hide kale in my daughter’s brownies. I do wonder how my towels smell, and will some one suddenly fall in love with me if I get rid of the grey or fill in some wrinkles or get three of those exercise video programs?
You see, it’s clear that I do not have enough. Worse still -- I am not enough.
Happily, my debit card and the internet can save me. Salvation is at hand.
The thing is that I do not really believe any of that. Not in my deep places. I know there is another way to live -- a way of generosity and gratitude, a way of deep satisfaction and a peace that surpasses understanding. Now this way is not easy, but it is life-giving. Living from a place of love and abundance and compassion is what saves my life.
Choose life, so that you and those who come after you may live. (Deut. 30:19)
In this community of people at Covenant, I find life. They treat me like I’m enough when I walk in the door, even on my bad days. They too are beautiful messes trying to find their ways in the world, and they work at choosing life. We work at learning how to live. This is true in our Sunday School lessons (we call them Treasure Finders) when we explore the concept of Enough with our children, and it's true in our Adult Education, and our Mission Work, our life in the community.
Have you noticed that our culture needs us to want? Our culture works hard to make us want things -- often these are things that make other people money and do absolutely nothing to truly enrich and deepen and bless our lives.
The people who make money off of us see us as Consumers and fail to see us as precious, vulnerable individuals. The authors of An Other Kingdom: Departing the Consumer Culture put it this way:
Consumer means that our capacity to purchase is the measure of our well-being and our identity. That what is essential to life -- such as raising children, our health, our safety, our care -- can be outsourced and purchased. It also means that whatever we have is not enough.
Ultimately it means that we are not good enough as we are, that our lives are not rich enough if we don’t make the right purchases. This book is written by two community activists and a brilliant bible scholar. It is full of reasons for us to make different choices and of examples of how to do that. We are going to discuss it this month at Covenant.
I do consume, but I am not defined by that. I am not what I buy. I am a child of God alive in the flow of Love. Forget rampant consumerism; I choose another way.
When I shop for Christmas presents, I am going to buy less this year, and I am going to spend as much as I can at places that make me feel good about being part of the economy, places like the Fair Trade Sale at Covenant and at local businesses. When I plan what to do over the holidays I am going to spend time with people I love. We’re going to the Thanksgiving Potluck and the Advent Event and Covenant Night at the Zoo. We’re going to make an Advent Wreath together and focus on love bursting into the world instead of my bank account bursting into oblivion. I am going to give time and money to people who really do need things and really do need to be shown that they matter. I am going to worry less and be less busy and be more present to people I love.
And I know this will be a battle. But what I have described is my intention; this is my prayer; this is my plan to live with Christ's compassion and commitment to others.
The thing is that a room full of pretty plastic toys, a whiter smile, a new alarm system, a car driven by a man with a supposedly sexy voice, different bathroom tissue, glittery Christmas decorations and undergarments that smoosh in my body fat are not going to improve the quality of my life.
What I really want is more rich time with my daughters, long conversations with my mom, time to sink into my favorite chair and read my favorite things, walks with birdsong and the smell of leaves and pine trees, a quiet place to pray and to listen for the wisdom of the Spirit rising up inside me, some good hugs and warm smiles to remind me that I am already enough in this moment. What I really want is to know in every fiber of my being that I am loved no matter what and that I belong in this beautiful mess of human community just as I am. I really want us all to know that.
I choose life -- life grounded in God's love, life with all of you.
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