The holidays are coming and the influx of catalogs in my mailbox confirms it. I can't seem to throw them away because their contents might offer me the perfect Christmas gift for my husband, the ideal accessory for my house, or to-die-for shoes. The likelihood of me actually buying something from them is very slim, but there's an underlying sense that I might miss out on something great if I just toss them in the garbage.
We see around 4,000 ads per day (1) which causes a number of things to happen simultaneously. We notice the smooth skin and perfect body on the model and wish we looked differently. We start to dwell on what we don't have instead of being grateful for what we do. Comparisons are made and contentment is eaten away. No matter what's been already given, we want more.
I can blame social media for my discontentment, but the women of Discovering Our Dignity remind me that there is nothing new under the sun. Writing this study on women of the Bible made it clear to me that the problems of comparison and contentment aren't caused by overzealous marketing; it's an age-old wrestling match within the heart. Eve wasn't measuring herself against her Instagram feed, but she struggled as much as we do. Why? Because the enemy has always known that “godliness with contentment is great gain” (1 Timothy 6:6), so from the beginning of time he's been messing with our desires.
Satan's message to Eve was, “Are you longing for something more? More knowledge? More wisdom? Then you should be able to have it! Why should you have to experience unfulfilled longings? Take matters into your own hands!” His message is the same to us today. He convinces us that we shouldn't have unfulfilled longings. And our world chimes in, suggesting all sorts of remedies. Do you want something you can't afford? Put it on a credit card. Are you longing for affirmation and attention? Dress seductively to get it. Are you discontent in your marriage? Satisfy your emotional needs with another man.
It's important to note that the longing itself is not sinful. In fact, God put this longing into our hearts to draw us to Him. But we get into trouble when we insist on fulfilling that longing with things of earth, and when we're willing to do whatever it takes to fulfill it, regardless of right or wrong (2).
Before sin entered the world, God satisfied man's desires because they were directed at Him. But everything changed when Adam and Eve ate the fruit. Desire became misdirected, and ever since that fateful day, we've battled the lie that the fulfillment of our longings will come through temporal achievements or possessions. Desire isn't the problem. The problem is where we go to satisfy it. It's interesting that the word “sin” means missing the mark. It's a picture of us aiming for the wrong thing, and disobeying God in the process.
God doesn't want to squelch or take away our desires; He wants to redeem them and raise them to new heights. He knows what's going to deeply satisfy us, and what will leave us empty.
We have 18 days until Thanksgiving. How do we root out discontentment and cultivate gratitude between now and then? We can do it with the WWP Gratitude Challenge. I hope you keep going to the end because the best one is Day 17. I'm laughing just thinking about it.
We can do this one day at a time!
Day 1: Measure yourself today by contentment and laughter rather than by inches and pounds.
Day 2: Carry a rock in your pocket and every time you touch it, thank God for something.
Day 3: Thank God for three things you like to hear.
Day 4: Satisfy your desire for beauty by listening to 'Duettino- Sull'aria' by Mozart
Day 5: Find someone who works in the service industry and say thanks for the help they provide.
Day 6: When you get in the shower, start to list your blessings and don't stop until you turn off the water.
Day 7: Thank God for three things that you like to taste.
Day 8: Throw out your merchandise catalogs.
Day 9: Go through a drive-through line and pay for the person behind you.
Day 10: Fast from social media for the day.
Day 11: Think of three friends you are grateful for; text them and let them know.
Day 12: Measure today by how many people you complimented instead of how many people got on your nerves.
Day 13: Write a note of appreciation to someone who has taught you something or inspired you.
Day 14: Thank God for three things in your home.
Day 15: Watch a sunset in the most quiet place possible.
Day 16: Unsubscribe from email lists of 20 companies that send you too many ads.
Day 17: Binge watch John Crist videos. As in WATCH THEM ALL. You're welcome.
Day 18: Thanksgiving!
Grateful for you-
1. Ron Marshall, “How Many Ads Do You See In One Day?”, Red Crow Marketing, https://www.redcrowmarketing.com/2015/09/10/many-ads-see-one-day/, accessed October 29, 2018.
2. Lisa Brenninkmeyer, Walking with Purpose, Discovering Our Dignity, 2017, 20-21.
This month, I wanted to share with you a second excerpt from the Beholding His Glory talk that I gave at the WWP Leadership Conference in August. This is the second part of a two part reflection, so if you missed Part I, feel free to check it out on our website here: https://walkingwithpurpose.com/august-2013-reflection/
In Part I, I discussed what “Less of me and more of God” means in my personal life. The following excerpt describes a third area where God is working in me. “Less of me and more of God” has meant less self-sufficiency, less approval seeking, and…
Less accumulation and consumption.
Excess. My life is saturated with excess. I sometimes wonder how long my family could live on the food in our pantry. The supply never seems to go down. There's always a stockpile, yet we still manage to say that we're hungry and we can't find anything to eat. Dinner is served and too much of it ends up in the garbage. My closet is full of clothes but there are times that I can't find anything to wear, at least not the right thing to wear, and to me, the two seem like the same thing. We can barely move around in our storage room in the basement because it's loaded with things that I might need at some point, and I'd better keep, just in case.
I read Jesus' words in the gospel, telling the rich young ruler to go and sell everything he has and give it to the poor, and make myself feel better by saying that he didn't say that to everyone, so he must not mean me. “Please,” I whisper, “May that not mean me.”
Why do I pad my life with too many possessions? Why do I panic at the thought of letting the excess go?
Where is my security found? A convicting thought - one that has been niggling at my heart for some time.
And ladies, most of us are in this boat. Most of us are wealthy by the world's standards. Do you make $35,000 a year? Then you are in the top 4 percent of wealth in the world. $50,000? Top 1 percent.
In the words of Jen Hatmaker,
Excess has impaired perspective in America; we are the richest people on earth, praying to get richer. We're tangled in unmanageable debt while feeding the machine, because we feel entitled to more. What does it communicate when half the global population lives on less than $2 a day, and we can't manage a fulfilling life on twenty-five thousand times that amount? Fifty thousand time that amount? It says we have too much, and it is ruining us.
God got a hold of her heart, and her husband's heart, and led them to a radical change. They are following the command in Scripture to “love your neighbor as yourself,” and give away half of what they make. They decided to adopt two children from Ethiopia. Jen wrote a book called 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess, based on a seven month experiment where she fasted from one thing each month. During the month when she focused on food, she made a commitment to only eat seven foods and fast from the rest. One particular night, she had made dinner for herself, and then fried up some fish for her kids. These were her three biological children, because she was still waiting for the adoptions to go through. Two of her children were in Ethiopia that night. She went upstairs to do laundry while they ate. When she came back down, they were done with dinner and watching television.
She asked, “Did you finish eating already?”
“Did you eat everything?”
She went to the trashcan and saw five of the six fish fillets uneaten, even unbitten. When the kids saw her face, they mumbled, “We didn't have any ketchup.”
And tonight, my kids here with me in the land of plenty threw away a pound of food because they didn't have ketchup…I wept for all my children tonight, my Ethiopian children orphaned by disease or hunger or poverty who will go to bed with no mother tonight and my biological children who will battle American complacency and overindulgence for the rest of their lives. I don't know who I feel worse for.
God has convicted my heart about this. And honestly, I don't know exactly what to do about it. I don't know what the solution is. But step one for me is calling it what it is and asking for God's forgiveness. Step two is going on right now. I'm daily praying with Leo that God will show us what needs to change so that we are seeking His glory with too many possessions instead of our glory and security.
He hasn't yet given us the answer, but I know that He will. And I also know that although letting go is hard, what God places in our hands in exchange is always better.
But even if I knew specifically what God is calling my family to, I don't know that I would share it here. Not because I don't trust you. It's more because I think we love formulas, and it would be just too tempting for everyone to assume that what God is asking of me is what He's asking of you. And that's not how it works. God speaks to each one of us, personally. The path to holiness isn't created with a cookie cutter. Each one of us is unique, and God has a special plan and a purpose for each one of His children.
But one thing I do know, He wants all of us to behold His glory, to know the fullness of Who He is. He wants every one of us to want Him more than we want anything else.
Matthew 6:21 says,
“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
And I want my heart to belong to Him.
 Jen Hatmaker, 7 (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group 202), 21.
 Ibid, 22.