Wednesday, December 3, 2008

A Place to Call My Own

Last week I lived in the basement of a large home in Rogers that was frequently occupied by its owners. This week I live on the 2nd floor of my in-law's home in Fayetteville. A week and a half from now I will be living in the basement of a home near the lake in Rogers - a home Josh & I will be caring for as the owners are moving into a new home. Someday I think I might live in a place that is occupied solely by my husband and myself (and someday our children). Also, this would be a place in which, when we work to take care of it, it will actually be our own things we are caring for.

Living in other people's homes for the last two and a half years has taught me some good lessons, and has also raised some questions in my heart that have not yet been settled. Some of these are as follows:
* I have learned firsthand the truth of the statement that what you own ends up owning you. I have observed the anxiety and concern that accompanies pouring earthly treasures into .... well, more earthly treasures. Something I have come to realize is that when you give your money away, whomever you entrust it to becomes responsible for how they handle it. When you spend your money on stuff, you are then obligated to care for it and also to spend more money to maintain it. I'm not saying that there's anything wrong with stuff. I can't wait for the day when I will own a house, more than four pieces of furniture, and .... well, stuff. However, I hope that the opportunity I have had over the last couple of years to observe some of the things people who have lots of money sometimes do with that money will keep me mindful when I'm spending my own money. I know "mindful" sounds vague, but I try to avoid grand promises when I'm uncertain about what exactly my convictions are in a particular area. I just know that I want to please God by being a good steward of whatever He gives me and not be a slave to stuff.
* I have learned how very much I dislike it when stuff takes priority over people. If anyone reading this blog ever observes me giving things a place of higher honor than people and relationships, please call me out immediately. This is not how I want to live.
* Here is a question that has taken root in my mind ... Throughout Josh & my 2 1/2 years of basement living, we have done a fairly good job caring for the home we lived in: mowing the yard, watering plants, scheduling the bug people to come, cleaning the home as the homeowners requested before the bug people came, and cleaning the homeowner's living quarters before they would come home for their visits. However, we did only what was required of us. Neither of us was in the least bit motivated to better the home in any way. I know that this is partly because we were very limited in what we were allowed to do, but I also know that another reason for this was because the home was not our own, and the stuff was not our own. Josh and I often talk about how wonderful it will be when we have our own place, and all the great things we will want to do with it. So here's where I start getting confused: I say (and I think I truly believe) that everything I have belongs to the Lord. I am just a steward He has entrusted it to for a time, similar to the way Josh and I were stewards to the home we just moved out of. So, why do I feel like the two are so different? Is it bad that I was less motivated in that home than I will be in one I have put my resources into? Is it bad that I will be more emotionally connected to the home we purchase than the one we rented a basement from? Is the main difference that "where your treasure is your heart will be also," and we didn't invest very much treasure in the last place we lived?

I guess the idea of homeownership probably just stresses me out a little too much. I think I have been sort of dreading this stage in life for my whole life. Even as a little girl I felt like I didn't want to just grow up, get married, buy a house, and accumulate stuff. As an adult, life is no longer as black and white as it was when I was little. I know that adulthood and "getting settled" can provide an incredible platform for ministry. It can also become a black hole of materialism. In the end I don't think it is the idea of stuff that scares me most: it is the idea of myself. I love the idea of generosity and simplicity, but I also love pretty things. As long as I have had only a little, I have not had to worry very much about whether or not I would choose materialism. It's hard to get caught up in buying lots of stuff when you don't have money. Now, as I am moving into a more stable stage of life, it freaks me out. You can ask my husband. I nearly had a coronary when we bought a t.v. last weekend because I was so afraid we were becoming "those people". Honestly, I don't even know what that means. I can only think of a couple Americans I've ever known who don't own televisions, so I don't know why it made me panic and wonder if it's some symbolic gesture of us pledging our allegiance to stuff. I suppose the answer is probably to throw myself on God's mercy and beg Him to make me wise in this area. Beg Him for self-control and a heart that gives eagerly and cheerfully. I will start doing this more regularly.

What about all of you? How do you deal with stuff?


kaw said...

Stefanie, I love how you make me think without making me feel like you're yelling at me! What a great thought provoking blog!!

tim, ally and silas said...

really great thoughts, stef. the US doesn't set a very good example of moderation in materialism, but i don't fear you and josh going overboard - i think the first step is being aware (which you are) and the second step is your heart behind the purchases (which i think is and will be held up to the light). also, you have a beautiful world perspective and care about so much outside of yourself and i think these things will help keep that in check. love you!