My wife and I are busy packing up our house to move six blocks away to our new house. I hate moving. Every time we move, we seem to get rid of more stuff. And yet, I am always amazed at how much stuff we have. We really don't have that much when compared to some, but it still feels like a lot.
My wife and I are constantly trying to simplify our lives. We don't have cable. (I'm already addicted to too many shows as it is, why should I add more?) We don't go crazy on new clothes or other frivolous things. When we do spend money, we try to spend according to our convictions. This means supporting local restaurants like Jockamo Upper Crust Pizza, funding business plans for local shops like Homespun (which we'll do after the next pay day), and giving to organizations that have changed our lives like Redeemer Presbyterian Church.
And yet, it seems like we can always simplify more. I am constantly asking myself, "Am I too attached to my stuff and to certain lifestyle conveniences?" I am usually embarrassed by my responses.
Now, I have to worry about the message my consumer choices send to my daughter. She's never going to think I'm cool, so does it really matter if I get my beloved cardigans from The Gap or from Value World? Shouldn't she grow up in a household that views sacrifice as something that is required of us? Shouldn't she grow up seeing that our motivations - not just our actions - matter?
Sacrifice is a funny thing. It's easy to talk about at the bar over a pint with good friends. It's another thing to live it out. My wife and I talk about becoming foster parents or about adopting children. The questions we ask always seem to center around our own fear of sacrifice.
What if the foster child has lots of issues and is unstable? What if we adopt a child of a different race? Will our family not love them as much? What if I get attached to a foster child and then they leave?
What if the zombie apocalypse happens tomorrow and I find out that my dog, the dog I saved from certain death at the pound, has been a zombie spy all these years and turns on me during the final batttle, thus ending my attempt to save humanity?
When you get down to it, aren't most "what if" questions just as absurd as that last one? Aren't they really designed to help us feel good for considering a sacrifice while providing a "legitimate" out?
If I'm honest, I don't sacrifice enough.
Helping someone change a flat tire when you're late for work isn't a sacrifice. Having an annoying acquaintance over for dinner because you know they're lonely isn't a sacrifice. Giving up cable to spend more time with you're family isn't a sacrifice (I don't care who your family is). Giving away enough money to feel good about yourself but not enough to force lifestyle changes is not a sacrifice.
Selling everything you have and giving the money to the poor is a sacrifice. Loving your friend so much that you would lay down your life to save their's is a sacrifice. Letting your only son die to atone for the sins of the world is a sacrifice.
And so, as I pack up yet another house, I am asking myself, "Have I really sacrificed enough? What other excuses am I going to create to avoid what I know to be true in my heart? How self-absorbed can one man really be?"
A Prayer For The Thirtieth Day Of Lent
Lord, we are a self-righteous people. We make minor adjustments to our lifestyle and declare them as sacrifices. When we see news reports of famine, war, and injustice, we turn off the TV declaring, "Someone else will take care of this. We have sacrificed enough." And we write a check to soothe our soul.
Lord, remind us of the sacrifices you have endured because of your love for us. Break us of our pride. Show us how to truly sacrifice. Open our wallets to the needs of your world. Open our hearts to the needs of your people. Open our souls to our need for you.
Lord, in your mercy
Hear our prayer