Thursday, December 23, 2010

I Don't Need a Thing

I wrote the following reflection a while ago, but I find that now, as Advent comes to a close, I find that I could use the reminder.  Come, Lord Jesus, and fill our emptiness.  Let us not settle for less than You.


During the time surrounding the birth of my first child, my husband often worked late. And that left me in a small house with a small infant in late winter. Twilight seemed to arrive so early, and I knew the night would be long. Up until that point, we had never had cable TV. But my husband sensed that the many hours of sitting and nursing would take a toll if I were not entertained somehow, and we got ourselves some cable TV.

And one night, it was very dark, but only about 7:00, and my husband had phoned from the office to tell me, "Not yet," and I sat to nurse the baby, feeling the night and the silence and the loneliness threaten. Motherhood was still new, the physical sensations bothersome, my thicker middle uncomfortable, the lack of sleep debilitating. I had yet to make my mommy friends, whom God would present to save my emotional health within weeks, but not yet.

I flipped on the television, and a vast array of channels flashed before my eyes. Cooking shows, home shows, re-runs. As I held my infant, I felt a lack of connection to the world. Was anybody out there? And then I flicked the remote once or twice more and landed on a shopping channel.

Wow. What is this? They're selling this pottery on television? Why would anybody do that? Why would they just talk and talk about it? The history of this pottery, its origins, its artisans, its value...I started to listen. It was sort of interesting. Every so often, people would call in to say that they had a whole collection of the expensive stuff already. I felt a vague sense of disdain for the whole thing, but I couldn't stop watching. And then I felt comforted. And then I realized what was attracting me! It was live! What I was watching was really going on somewhere! Right now! And in the oddest sense, it connected me to the world, and these other people in their homes watching these extended sales pitches! Pitifully, it quelled my loneliness a bit. And that wasn't the last time I watched.

I began to see how people could become hooked on buying stuff to fill a need. And, while this is not an expose of a foray into shopping-network addiction, I must admit that there have been times I just wanted something I didn't need because I thought it would make me feel better. A fashion catalog would arrive, and I'd expect the purchase from it to do something more than clothe my body. Just recently, I was feeling down about my children growing up, school ending, the next grade looming, waiting to take them farther away, with my belly empty and (sort of) flat(ish). And my mom gave me some money for some shoes she knew I had admired, to cheer me up a bit, something just for me, without having to pinch pennies. So, the morning before my daughter's kindergarten graduation, I pulled my unenthusiastic little boy into the mall with me, and bought the sandals. They really are lovely. But what was my condition afterward? Down in the one pair of shoes.

I don't need anything, thanks be to God. I don't hunger for food. I don't want for shelter. I have clothes to wear, and books to read. Lots of books to read. I have flowers in my garden and fabric to sew with. I do not need anything! In fact, I have more than I need!

So why do I want?

In answer to that question, I've toyed with the idea that it's wrong to want, even sinful. But that never worked. Why? Because want is built-in. It's built into us by the Builder! It's just that, at times, I'm simply misperceiving what (or Who) is supposed to fill the want.

The thing is, I mess up again and again. I come to realizations like this, and, quite possibly, the following day I seem to have forgotten what was revealed to me the day before. But once I can identify the problem, I can better keep myself accountable.

Tummy growling? The answer is food.
Skirt have holes in it? The answer is a new skirt.
Pillowcases threadbare and stained? The answer is new pillowcases.
Feeling sad because children are growing up so quickly? The answer is God.
Feeling lonely because husband is working late? The answer is God.
Feeling betrayed by a "friend?" The answer is God.

I write these guidelines because they're helpful to me, to figure stuff out, to order my beliefs, and to push my stubborn self to live out those beliefs. But there's only so much figuring, ordering, and pushing I can do. I can only exert effort to a certain point, and then I must rest. Rest in God. Rest in his peace and forgiveness and understanding, and rely on him to turn my heart. And, while Scripture says his mercies are new every morning, I think he'd also tell us we don't have to wait till tomorrow to prostrate ourselves and make a new start this second.

Dear Lord, and so it is that, once again, I promise I will come to you first, asking that you fill me with your peace, with divine satisfaction that cannot come from things, or the pursuit of things, or lists of things I would like to have. Enhance my discernment in those times of doubt, when my human failings threaten to undo me, and turn me away from you and toward that which will become moth-eaten and rusted. You are my treasure. You are my treasure. Amen.

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