the protest of grace

The purchasing of and the moving into our first home has elicited from deep within me the most obsessive-compulsive dysfunction of my soul to date. I knew I didn’t do well with chaos, but I didn’t think I did this poorly. I realize it is one thing to feel a new and different sense of emotional attachment once you own rather than rent, such that you want to create a new kind of space to call home for the long-run. I think there is something right and beautiful and God-inspired in that. But somewhere in there, something in me has gone slightly awry and my strong perfectionist spirit is threatening to take hold on so many levels. I will confess. Somewhere in there is a twisted and broken need in me to show off how beautiful I have made my home.

And so, the protest of grace steps in through a houseguest that the perfectionist in me would say has come at just the wrong time. We had nothing to offer but an air mattress for his first evening in our home full of boxes, tools, trash, and a couple pieces of fruit that made it over from the old place. He slept happily and without complaint. When mealtimes came and went, I would eventually realize how I’d single-mindedly gone about the endless task of unpacking with hardly a thought as to what we might feed our guest. He waited graciously for me to realize that perhaps some amount of caloric intake might do us all some good, and as he waited for the food to arrive, he went about swapping out our old toilet seat with a new one. I protested his generosity and servanthood. He protested with grace. Let me do this for you. I want to. I was surprised at how deeply I struggled to receive this from him.

There is a bitterness that eventually comes with the elusive pursuit of perfectionism. The bitterness of constant failure, the bitterness of exhaustion, the bitterness of comparison, the bitterness of resentment for the freedom that others feel when they are free from perfectionism’s cruel shackles. The protest of grace is hard to hear when you are convinced people will love you more if you could just be perfect. How can you really be ok with my messy, chaotic home and an air mattress? How can you really not mind that I haven’t fed you and that you are instead changing out a dirty toilet seat while your stomach quietly rumbles? The simplicity of grace is offensive to my pride. But secretly, I ache for it, deeply.

It’s time to let myself sit with my boxes of junk and just be at home once again in the gracious heart of Christ.

content in plenty

The year 2011 did not end anywhere close to the way we had anticipated, and that has rolled over into the start of 2012. As Advent began, I was determined to keep it simple, with minimal shopping. If anything, I wanted to exert my energies during the holiday season on purging the house of all the excess clutter. Simplify. Downsize in some ways. A quiet and low-key Christmas season just focusing on the Savior.

Well, the purging happened. But it happened in the midst of a completely different context than I had imagined.

We bought a house, our first. We went from 0 to 100, from a casual visit to a nearby open house to getting a pre-approval letter to putting in an offer to accepting a counteroffer to winning the bid, in five days. We went from that whirlwind straight into the whirlwind of escrow, which is where we currently find ourselves now. And the madness joy of moving is what lies very closely ahead.

So much for simple. So much for minimal shopping. I never have, and God-willing, never will again spend so much money in one short month. The Chinese reluctant spender in me is balking.

Everyone keeps reminding me that the stress is coming out of a good thing. I keep reminding myself that everything I am feeling stressed about is everything I have to be so very thankful for. A house to call our own. Financial resources to be able to afford it and the seemingly endless things that come with it.

It’s that seemingly endless list – the furniture, the appliances, the potential décor – that has me thinking about what Paul says in Philippians 4 when he says he has learned what it is to be content in Christ, both in times of need and in times of plenty.

The lure of needing the next thing is stronger than I realized when you buy a house. It’s strange, that the very things we think might make us more content, can actually foster greater discontentment. Case in point: We purchased a new washer and dryer. The next thing I know, I get an email from the store advertising items that other shoppers also bought when they purchased similar appliances. Don’t you think you need a laundry pedestal too? I’d never heard of such a thing until now. I was fine with all the extra, smart, already-existing storage space in the new house. But now that the store mentions it, boy that laundry pedestal is a great idea. There are so many extra things that would go so nicely with all our extra things.

Just. Say. NO.

The husband and I keep reminding each other, just because there is space does not mean we need to fill it. We are trying our hardest to fight for an open, clutter-free (or perhaps more realistically speaking, clutter-reduced) home, where the wide open spaces allow Christ to be the one to fill our hearts with contentment that much more during this season of ‘plenty.’ This past Sunday, the husband preached on the topic of a blessing. It is so common for us to wish blessings upon one another, especially at the turn of a New Year, but we don’t always know what we are wishing for. Or we do, but it’s so different from what God actually intends in fulfilling our quest for joy. Ultimately, our greatest blessing, our greatest joy, is found in the person of Christ. To know Him, more of Him, all we can of Him. These were the musings of my last post. And so, while we genuinely appreciate the expressions of joy and congratulations that dear friends have shared with us concerning the purchase of this house, we ask more than anything that you keep us accountable to this prayer.

Lord God, give us grace to move and live with a right perspective, with open hearts and hands. To not be driven by subtle pride or vanity. To not buy things just because we can. But to fight for a life of simplicity so that our stewardship can help others who are in much, much greater need, ultimately so that eyes would be lifted up more and more to the eternal beauties of You, and less and less to the temporary things of this earth.