Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Buoyancy (or I Don't Think You're Ready)

Upon moving to South Korea, my wife and I were certain that one of the lessons God wanted us to learn was how better to relate to "stuff" (material possessions) in our hearts, home, and lives. Part of that was learning to live more simply, learning to save, learning to be more frugal, and learning the discipline of self-control.

We've always loved stuff - nice stuff, cute stuff, cool stuff, trendy stuff. We're nesters, who love building our home from the inside out, and designers who love matching colors, textures, and styles. We're snappy dressers who love a well put together outfit. And for a time, we were absolutely addicted to shopping, buying, collecting, and amassing.

These are the continuing confessions of a recovering materialist.

Slowly, surely, we are being redeemed from these things.

Moving to Korea was a big part of that.

There, our apartment was smaller. There were aspects of it we had little control over. Much of our furnishings came with the apartment, and we didn't get to choose what they would look like. Clothes were almost all Asian-sized, and therefore didn't fit us tall Amurricans.

And so, not wholly unlike rehab, living in Korea helped us as we travelled down the road to recovery.

There were indeed struggles along the way. We made good money as foreign English teachers, and could therefore afford to upgrade, replace, and supplement our apartment furnishings. And not all the clothes were too small, and we would allow ourselves to buy new clothes on occasion, like the wonderful shawl-collar sweater with wooden toggle clasps from Zara that Ferial bought me for my birthday.

However, all in all, by God's grace we learned. We learned to live more frugally, to dress ourselves and our home more simply, and to find our contentment, not in our stuff, as much as in our relationships - those with the people around us, and with our God.

Until we moved back to Amurrica.

We thought we'd travelled a good deal further down the road to recovery than we had. We thought we were stronger than we really were.

However, upon moving back to the US, we realized that the strength we'd gained in Korea, was forged in a protected environment. It was as if we'd been lifting weights underwater - the dumbbells were indeed heavy, but they were more buoyant, and were therefore, easier to lift.

Once we'd crawled out of the water and back onto the dry ground of a land where clothes fit, and we were no longer making more money than we needed, a land where we actually needed to exercise discipline, we realized that we still had quite a bit of learning left to do. Now we're learning the discipline of living month-to-month, of paying off credit cards the old fashioned way - bit-by-bit, trying to design, decorate, and dress on a budget, and the ever-important discipline of saying "NO" to ourselves.

The weight is heavy. However, the muscles have not atrophied.

What's more, the Bible says that God's strength is shown best in our weakness - in situations where we cannot possibly make it on our own, He shows Himself to be the Savior that He is. It's by His strength that we're learning discipline, by His power that we're able to exact self-control, and only by His grace that we didn't drown in the first place.

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