—Romans 12:1-2 (NIV)
Tommy and I are in the middle of a transformation. There are many, many things that have brought this on—too many to try to explain in one post—but the bottom line is that we really are trying to take our faith seriously. Weren't we trying to take our faith seriously before? Well, yeah, we thought we were. But, this is different. I realize that "taking faith seriously" can pan out to look very different for different people in different circumstances, so I'm not trying to judge anyone else here. I just want to explain what is going on with us right now. (Well, I guess I can only speak for myself; Tommy can give you his own perspective.)
I grew up in "the Church" (meaning the Church of Christ), and I have attended the same congregation all my life. I was baptized at church camp when I was 13. I met my husband (Tommy) at church, and we were married there. A good handful of our family and many of our friends are in our church. Sometimes we teach children's Bible class. Sometimes we work at our camp. Sometimes we do things for our families or volunteer for other random nice things. All of that is great, and it is all very meaningful for me on a personal level—but it is not enough.
If I were to make a pie chart of how I spend my time, my energy, and my thoughts, the biggest piece of the pie by far would be what I do for myself (or for Tommy and me together, which still counts as being for myself in the long run). If I am completely honest about the situation, that is just sad. Other than simply being a human (which brings in all sorts of nasty characteristics of human nature) I think the root of my warped mindset comes from being a middle-class American.
Please don't get me wrong; many things about America are insanely wonderful, not least our freedom. However, we have created a system that breeds selfishness. Whether we like to admit it or not, we place the most value on making money. I have really struggled with this concept for the past few years as I have been a housewife without a "real job." It has been a real challenge to find the worth in myself and in things I was doing just because I wasn't bringing in money. Okay, I admit to laziness and some self-indulgence on my part, but even the "good" things I did—besides cooking and cleaning: making meaningful connections with other people, using my creativity and God-given talents to produce beautiful things, and even taking time to commune with God—seemed at times somehow less important than earning money. Isn't that just stupid?
We might say, "Yeah, that's all well and good, but we still have to eat and to clothe ourselves." That's true, but here's what Jesus said about that:
Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?
And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
—Matthew 6:25-34 (NIV)
I'm sure most of us who are Christians have read this passage a million times already. I know I had (give or take a thousand), and I felt like I understood it. I always put the emphasis on the "worrying" part, and I thought I was safe because, while I enjoyed food and clothes and often thought about them, I didn't actually worry about them. You know why? Because I already had them. My parents made enough money to feed and clothe me, and then so did my husband. Why would I worry about things like that when we were "doing just fine"? The problem wasn't that I had those things—God knows that we need them—it was that I was trusting in money and in other humans for those things. When I read this passage now, I see that the provider is God. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with buying food and clothes (or fulfilling other "needs" that we have), but they shouldn't be our main concern. When we get them, we should recognize that they come from God, not from ourselves or from anyone else.
Is it possible, then, that if we changed around our lifestyle to better seek God's kingdom and His righteousness, sacrificing money in the process, that God would make sure that our needs were met? Yes, I believe it is.
Before you too firmly establish your opinion of me and what I'm saying, let me throw some other things out there. I don't think it is "bad" to have a paying job or to make money. That could be part of how God meets your needs or the needs of others. It is important that we have people who pick up our trash or teach our children or grow our food, and I think it is right that those people be paid. Also, I have not yet actually acted on any of these principles. I am still working out exactly what it all means for me (though I have some ideas). The point is that my mind is being "renewed" as Tommy and I are actively trying to "seek first his kingdom and his righteousness." The idea that our American society causes us to focus on making money so that we can satisfy our own selfish desires is just one of the many things we are re-thinking right now. Other thoughts will have to wait for later posts.
Meanwhile, what do you think? Have you had any of these same thoughts, or do you think that I am crazy? Have you ever experienced being transformed by the renewing of your mind? If so, what did you end up doing?
In Christian Love and the Pursuit of Truth,