January 26, 2009

A quick confession

I have issues with money. For as long as I can remember my family has been careful with its pennies. Although by some standard we did have a lot, a lot of planning went into almost everything we bought, and thankfully the years brought their rewards. I remember one summer as a child when the family voted to do without air conditioning for a month so we could have enough money to go on vacation. I remember my dad driving an old truck he didn't like, and spending endless hours going back to school so he could get a better job. And I did indeed marry a man capable of supporting me in the manner to which I'd been accustomed. Let me assure you I mean that as no slight. In this day and age marrying a man without debt is no small blessing. We might not have much, but everything we have is freehold. And yet I must confess that somewhere in the inner recesses of my soul is the desire to spend money like water (in which I think I'm hardly unique). At first the list doesn't seem too long -a house with a decent sized yard, maybe a new Honda, perhaps a modest ski boat, two or three days horseback riding in Yellowstone. That's hardly the lifestyle of a multimillionaire. But even as I say that I can see my list getting longer -tickets to Broadway revivals in NYC, a home on several acres, a cabin on Lake Martin, pretty dishes, more traveling, nicer clothes, jewelry -the bigger my budget the longer my list. In the long run, it doesn't matter how big or small my budget is. There are just times when I want to reach out my hands and grasp, and I hate it because I know that impulse is futile and destructive. When you start grasping do you ever find a place where you can stop and be content? I don't think so. Ultimately I think I want to grab because I want to be secure. I want to have so much stuff that nothing can hurt me. Hearing talk about economic downturn scares me because I don't want to suffer and give up things. I get angry at the thought of giving up my little indulgences when I see other people routinely incurring expenses I couldn't manage in a month of Sundays. And then I feel bad because somewhere out there a mother of three or four who has to feed her family for a month on what I spend in a week or two at Whole Foods. It's hard for me to know how I should think about these things. I know that grasping doesn't lead anywhere, and hopefully I'm too good a Christian and a capitalist to begrudge my neighbors their good fortune. I just want to be safe. I want to know that I'll always be able to go on making soup in the years ahead and that if I never rise above shopping clearance racks then at least I'll never fall below them. As often as I may struggle with our need to save and plan I can all too easily imagine a time when even the opportunity to save would be a luxury. At those times I want to grasp onto everything I can. I suppose there's really no way to get around it that in such cases I need God more than ever. Then I remember that when God sent Israel into exile it wasn't only the evil who went, and I have a hard time dealing with God when I'm seeing that side of His face. Those are the times I want to just eat -to physically fill myself with all that may one day be lacking. Fortunately I don't tend to keep anything around that's worse than spaghetti or beef and vegetable soup, but even that it bad enough. I don't like feeling empty, and I don't like getting a second helping of ziti or soup because I'm feeling insecure about the future. I suppose that means I'd better come to terms with God and the righteous exiles.

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