I have never traveled to a third-world country.
Hopefully some day I will, but for now I content myself with stories from the many, many friends who have gone and were so richly blessed by the experience.
The one thing that always stays with me is the overwhelming joy that they find among people with so little possessions. They have no “stuff” and yet they glow with a vibrance unheard of in our American society. We are the U.S. We thrive on “stuff”. Stuff is supposed to make us happy…right? Why else do we keep trying to collect more of it?
Last month I began a de-cluttering project in my house. I do this every so often, but this time I was even trying to rid myself of items which had survived previous de-clutterings and which I still never used.
I gave bags and bags away to friends.
I loaded up my trunk and took the rest to a local Christian thrift store.
I had less stuff. And I was more happy. (Happier, yes.)
Then my birthday rolled around.
After I left teenagerdom, I had a hard time knowing what kind of gifts I wanted for my birthday. I didn’t really need anything, and usually there wasn’t anything more useful than what I already had.
This year was different.
This year I had a list, just like when I was a little kid. For this birthday I knew exactly what things I wanted. (I’d call them “toys” but I’m afraid that would give you a very wrong idea…)
Anyway, I got all of them. Lucky me! One of my birthday gifts was a phone upgrade. My current phone has an awful camera on it, and I miss being able to take clear, crisp pictures of every day life, and will especially appreciate it when Baby #2 joins our family.
I ordered the phone online, and it arrived three days later. I got it all customized to my liking and even got my voicemail set up…when I discovered a small crack in the upper corner. Not in the screen, but beneath the screen in the actual phone itself.
Now it’s nearly a week later and I’m still waiting for the replacement phone. There was a mix up in my information for returning the damaged phone, and by the time it gets back to the company and they ship my new one, it may very easily be next week.
But here’s the thing: my new phone won’t make me happy. Or happier. Yes I’m currently frustrated with the delayed gratification, but my ultimate happiness or contentment doesn’t come from “things”.
Before my birthday, I prayed about the stuff I was wanting. I knew the temptation of wanting material things, because they usually lead to wanting more and more things. Even as I watched the FedEx truck pull into my driveway to deliver my first phone, there was a solemn feeling that “this was it”, I was still me and any joy or long-lasting pleasure wasn’t going to ultimately come from opening the box I signed for.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m still excited for the new phone and I know I will thoroughly enjoy it. And enjoying possessions is a good thing!
The writer of Ecclesiastes says,
“Moreover, when God gives any man wealth and possessions, and enables him to enjoy them, to accept his lot in life and be happy in his work–this is a gift of God.”
Joy, contentment, the ability to enjoy anything in life–it all comes from God. So as I continue to focus on God, I take joy in knowing that any enjoyment I find on this earth is a gift from Him, whether I have many possessions or few.
And that makes me happy. 🙂