Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Living Without

My experiment of living without buying things is about half-way through. I have failed in so many ways, though I have succeeded in others. Here is how this experiment stands:

Promise to self: don’t spend money except on food.

First “lapse:”
bought a new couch. It is not here yet, but I could not sit on the other one because it was too deep and too soft and too big and too ... My plan was to (first) sell it then I was told no one would buy it, so then (second) I planned to give it to a nonprofit that could use it and then (finally, three) what I actually did is sell it to a neighbor who has two foster kids. The kids can sit on it, sleep on it, tussle on it. So, if I bought a new one to replace the one that will be well used, does that mean I have failed? I think not.

Second “lapse:”
I get way too many clothing (and other) catalogs in my mail. Many of them are showing longer sweaters and light coats. I did not have one but I resisted the many colorful ads until I was in a local shop (notice I said local, not mall, not online-shopping) and found one that fit. I like it. It is brown (one of the two great colors for next year, the other being gray-green). It can be dressed up or down, it can go to the malls or the theatre or church. WOW! A great investment for less than $85. Having it last for two years - might it last for four years - is actually a better investment than the mutual funds I have that are losing money even as I type.

Third “lapse:”
though it is difficult to call this a lapse since I am doing home improvement. I am having my front porch repaired where the wood is rotting replacing the stair railing in wood rather than the mismatched wrought iron that was there. That is the investment. While the contractor is here, I sked him to do a few more things so here comes the spending part: the new faucet in my bathroom sink. I needed to change the handles and they would have cost about $25. For a mere few dollars more I have an up-to-date spigot. Taller, shiny and fits in with the bathroom more than the one that was in the house when I bought it. So now, I need towels, especially hand towels. Do I need matchy-matchy all new towels or just hand towels? Probably not today, but soon.

I don’t think it is a lapse to spend money on these items. My mother used to tell me there were excuses (not too important from her perspective) and reasons (ah, yes, more real and truthful). This is more an excuse, if I am truthful. Reminds me of the things we tell ourselves when we don’t go to Sunday church. We justify with excuses or reasons things done and things left undone.

When I talk to folks about church, I hear lots of excuses about why people don’t go. Some say they we can’t prove there is a God, so why bother? On the other hand, there is Pascal’s wager: if you have to bet, bet on God. In the end, you can’t lose. Ultimately, since science - seeking proof - is so different from faith - belief - it is not fair to look to science to prove faith. Other folk tell me that there are ball games and television programs and sleeping late and can’t get around and too tired. I sometimes, too, want to just turn over and go back to sleep.

In the post-modern world of Christianity, we don’t think too much about the Mystery-we-call-God (not referred to just plain “God” anymore). We certainly don’t think about being judged, though in the Hebrew Scriptures, God both judges and protects. According to progressive Christian thinking, judgment is not from the outside though it may be internal.

How do I judge myself? On the issue of consuming, leniently. When I spend, no one is doing without. When I do actually turn over and go back to sleep (it is not only Sunday mornings that tempt me), I judge myself more stringently. I feel guilty all day and vow to do better tomorrow.

The real issue is: If I were being judged, how then? If you judge yourself on an action or issue, how do you fare? If you were being judged by another (God?) how would you fare?

As I prepare myself and my congregation for the Christmas season I want to do better not because there is a Santa Claus God rewarding my actions by checking off a list, but because I am “God Dependent” and I want to feel right with God. God is the one thing I cannot live without.

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