Thursday, May 03, 2007

Old Dead Leaves

Yesterday, I went into TJ MAXX because my sunglasses that I've had for four years or so have finally gotten too scratched to wear anymore. I went to TJ MAXX because I wanted brand name sunglasses. Don't ask me why. I just do. I think they flatter my face better and are of a better quality than those you get at Walgreens or Old Navy.

When I moved to Orcas Island 3 years ago, I gave up shopping. Before that, I had been a huge recreational shopper. I stopped at a store on my way home from work 3 days out of every five and probably spent time on one of the weekend days in a Nordstrom's Rack, TJ MAXX, Marshall's, Target, Hobby Lobby or any other store where I could hunt for a good deal. I was so good at shopping that when a friend's role-playing game required us to create statistics for ourselves (because we were the characters) he let me choose shopping as one of my specialized skills and even let me choose high stats for it from the very beginning, which was a big deal because he was usually pretty adamant that we are much more average than we think we are.

But when I moved to Orcas, a world of other things to do opened up to me. Also, I had easy access to The Exchange to soothe what Jeffrey called the human need to acquire. This was combined with my growing awareness of sweatshops and the role they play in the good deals that I was getting. Giving away 2/3 of the stuff that I had bought while recreationally shopping when I sold my house before I moved to Orcas was also a nail in the coffin. Seeing all that stuff that I didn't need gathered in my backyard was alarming. Plus, I felt so free once it was all gone.

I was a little afraid that when I moved back to the mainland, I would revive my old habits. However, I seem to have done pretty well for myself. I've let my mom buy me a few staples for urban and Midwestern situations that my Pacific Northwest wardrobe couldn't handle. Also, I've found some pretty good local thrift stores, although to be honest, I've only been out "shopping" twice since I've been here.

So, while I was in TJ MAXX yesterday, I thought I'd test the waters. I gave myself permission to buy whatever good deals I could find. I began the spree with looking for some things that I knew I needed but wouldn't buy at a thrift store: a bra and flip flops. After that, I wandered around a little and flipped through some things but found that even with the permission to buy, I couldn't get excited. It was like stopping on sports or soap operas while flipping through the TV: I'm not even remotely interested.

I'm trying to figure out what could create such a marked change, not just in my behavior but in my desires. Anyone can change most behaviors - that just takes will power and a little help from friends. But my alcoholic friends all agree that even though they don't drink anymore, they would definitely like to.

John Perkins says in Let Justice Roll Down, "I didn’t drop gambling because anybody preached against it. That kind of push never works over the long haul. True Christian change works more like an old oak tree in the spring, when the new life inside pushes the old dead leaves that still hang on." I wonder if my loss of desire for shopping is the result of getting my life more in alignment with God's plan for me. As far as I can tell, that plan is leading me toward vows poverty and I have been taking one reluctant step at a time down that path for several years now. (My only hope is that God will let me keep gong so slowly that I never actually have to take those vows and can remain at least somewhat comfortable. Oh, I know that true peace will come of them but man, do I like the freedom of a little disposable income.) What if my attempts to follow this path are actually creating new life that is pushing the old dead leaves out?

What would that new life be? Deeper relationships with people. Reconnected relationships with people I thought I'd lost. Peace about my divorce and a new stability to meet new challenges with. A church where people speak my language even if they don't say the same things. A job that gives me a chance to practice my book knowledge and observe theories in action all around me. A schedule with a pace that allows me time for leisure and spontaneous interaction with other people.

I floated this idea by Pastor Daniel at our lunch today and he acted a little bit like he'd never heard the premise before: that we begin to want the things God wants for us once we begin being obedient. I had credited "they" with the theory and he wanted me to get specific about who "they" were. I was slightly flustered because I'm so self-centered that I forget that other people don't have the same idea vocabulary as I do. I fished around in my head and pulled out that John Perkins quote. It was a good save since Daniel has much reverence for JP. However, on the El on the way home after class tonight, I read this in Don Miller's Blue Like Jazz:
Ultimately, we do what we love to do. I lik to think that I do things for the right reasons, but I don't. I do things because I do or don't like doing them. Because of sin, because I am self-addicted, living in the wreckage of the fall, my body, my heart and my affections are prone to love things that kill me. Tony says that Jesus gives us the ability to love the things we should love, the things of Heaven. Tony says that when people who follow Jesus love the right things, they help create God's kingdom on earth, and that is something beautiful.

When I read the book for the first time, I wrote this in the margin, "Christ persuades us to love doing good things or as I align myself with God's will I begin to love doing good things."

Woohoo! Let's hear it for consistency! Let's also give a great big huzzah for the potential that I might actually have been right about something, anything, two years ago and that I might be reaping the benefits of it now. Pretty cool, huh.

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