I've had some disturbing thoughts lately as I have reflected on Christmas. Deeply disturbing. Extremely uncomfortable. Sometimes I wish I could just turn off my brain.
My desire has been to extricate the stress, materialism, and gnawing hunger for the New & Shiny at Christmastime, and to replace it with the Hope, Peace, Joy and Love that comes from celebrating God's arrival. It turns out, though, that when you invite God to rummage around and clean out the dark places, He usually ends up finding more than you are comfortable with. Apparently, making your home in Jesus doesn't involve tidying & cleaning, but a complete overhaul.
About a week ago, I noticed that the contentment I felt with my life & my closet had been replaced by a rather long Christmas wishlist. It seems to happen every year: I start off thinking that I really don't need anything & isn't my life so full, and end up hungry for more, more, more, as I see lovely new things in store (or computer) windows.
And it happened again. When I pulled out my wishlist and tried to cross things off, and carve it down, it was really hard to let go.
Then this quiet thought floated to the top of my brain: I want others to think I am stylish, fashionable and cute. I want it so much that it has taken root deep down and controls the way I spend my money, my thoughts, my desires.
Now, I'm not making any blanket statements here about the evils of wanting a new sweater. I just realized that this seemingly simple, even benign desire has marbled it's way through the corners of my heart & mind, and the reason I know it because it is so very difficult to let go of.
Here's what I mean: There are millions of people in this world who are starving. I've read the statistics, I've taught seminars on poverty, and I've even lived in a refugee camp. I'm not trying to go all emotional, desperately-pulling-on-your-heartstrings or anything. It's just a simple truth. I have personally met people who have been kidnapped by rebel armies, whose children have been malnourished, and I have held a baby who just died of malaria. This isn't some infomercial out there, it is something I claim to care deeply about. So there's that.
Then, on the other hand, I have three black sweaters in my closet. But I don't have the right black sweater to wear with several of my shirts, and I really, really want a new black sweater. And a pair of skinny jeans that fit better than the other two pairs I own. And a few other sweaters, tanks & loungy pants that are on my list. Even though I already own more clothes than I know what to do with, they are old and make me feel frumpy, out-of-date & self-conscious. I feel uncomfortable all day long when I wear something like that. I look at other girls who are stylish & fit and compare myself. I try on seven different outfits in the morning & never quite feel satisfied. I worry about what others will think of me, and hear in my own mind the things that they must see in me. It's a pretty deep insecurity that I've carried around for a long time.
I could ask for clothes from my [extremely generous] parents for Christmas, or I could literally donate a cow to help feed those Ugandan girls I love. I could even ask for half the amount of stuff, and give the rest away. But every time I try to let go, there's just one more thing I need. I thought about fasting for a year from buying new clothes (not that we have that in our budget, but our families are always very giving for Christmas & birthdays) to help loosen the grip this stuff has on my heart. I'm honestly not sure if I could do it.
But really, what would happen? If I were to keep wearing those things that make me feel frumpy and old, would people love me less? Would friends stop spending time with me? Would my husband leave me for a trophy wife? Would my work with college students diminish? Would my personal worth or value as a human decrease? Would anyone even notice??? Wouldn't people rather spend time with someone who wasn't so concerned with their image & appearance, who was centered & free from insecurities, and focused on others rather than themselves?
What would it look like to let go-- to follow Jesus and walk forward into something that is [embarrassingly] difficult for me? I want to let go, and I don't. I want to move forward, and I don't. What would it look like to follow Jesus while holding on to something I knew he was asking me to release? Is that what I want?