Last night my husband and I sat on the back porch in our rocking chairs like something you’d see on leave it to beaver and talked. My brother and sister in law affectionately call this “porching it” and swear it’s the key to a good marriage. So we sat outside, rocked while we looked at our backyard and talked about what most people in their late twenties talk about with a toddler and one more on the way, money. What would be just the right amount? When will we get to the pinnacle illusion amount of “security”, that place where you skip off to work feeling confident that if you lost your job, total your car, or some other tragedy strikes you can feel at peace because there’s “enough” in the bank. The fantasy world where future college tuitions, weddings, proms, and house repairs are no longer the sweat on your brow but a welcomed new adventure because you are “secure”.
I grew up wanting. Not in the sense of basic needs but in the sense that I always wanted more. I wanted a bigger house, I dreamed of my own bathroom that was not filled with three boys and questionable hair findings. I dreamed of Birkenstocks and an off white north face jacket that would keep me warm in Atlanta’s extreme temperatures (sarcasm intended). I dreamed of having things that would give me happiness I thought waited on the other side.
However, there were four kids and my dad was starting his own company and my mom had decided the best place she could be was at home with us so going to the movies as a family was a stretch. In all my “wanting” though my childhood was one of the happiest I can imagine because while our memories weren’t made at 5 star resorts or fancy country clubs we had plenty of good memories. The atmosphere in our home was one of life and joy and dare I be cheesy and say Jesus. Our house was full of life, it was packed to the brim with it, teenage boys running in and out of the house to the latest experiment that would most likely land us in the ER. Our memories were made of rolling a tire down the hill, making bike ramps, and a large front yard swing that would later be called the “so sorry your kid broke his arm at our house” swing. And laughing. We laughed a lot and at night when we were all in our teens we’d pile into our parents room as we came home and catch up. (of course I didn’t realize how great any of this was back then)
No I didn’t have my own bathroom (can you tell this was a big point of angst for me) and I worked through high school to pay for the extras that I so desperately needed… like skirts that should have been banned in all 50 states. What I learned though was that money didn’t create atmosphere, it wasn’t necessary to create memories, and we didn’t need to have the best vacations in our borrowed 2 bedroom condo in Hilton head. We had joy because we were thankful, we had love, we knew where life came from, and we had each other.
I say all this because now as a grown up (well almost) the trap is to believe that the destination of security will somehow create this mecca of joy. Yet why is it that the richest people in America seem to be the unhappiest? Why is it that the biggest smiles I’ve ever seen were on the faces of some of the poorest in Africa? And why is it that you probably haven’t heard a lot of people say “we have just the right amount of money?”
Because God beckons us to joy not through things, trips, and big numbers but through a redeemed life. He beckons us to joy in trusting in the midst of plenty and little. He beckons us to real joy when we choose to look at a messy house as a house full of life, as shared bathrooms as one more opportunity to be close knit, and as “wanting” to be something that teaches us how to be gracious no matter the circumstance. I never went without growing up, I know that now, but I looked around me and everyone seemed to have fancier things and something inside me craved it. Whenever I’d get one thing though the stakes got higher, the things got more expensive, and the let downs greater. The joy I was searching for couldn’t be purchased.
This morning on Good Morning America they talked about an article that said that we shouldn’t let our kids want for things because it creates “bad self-esteem” and I had to laugh because I am thankful every day I didn’t get just want I wanted (pretty sure my husband is too). I even manage to have a fine self-esteem. Who would have thought!
7 Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness.