In my search for contentment and good stewardship, I’m always on the lookout for people who have pursued simplicity and less consumerism. When I was perusing the shelves of my local library (one way I can read voraciously without spending), I saw this book and picked it up on a whim.
Immediately, I was drawn to the idea of not buying things for a year. I would love to be able to do just that, so I was hoping that I would be inspired. What I found, was a woman journeying in life who shared an honest assessment of her struggle to not buy things, her deep desire to do good for the planet, for the poor worker, for the sustainability of the world, yet her desire to just have some nice things. I appreciated her honesty in the struggle to make do with what she had, find a way to spend time with friends that didn’t involve money, and at the same time, learn how to receive gifts from others. When you don’t have money to spend, it’s hard to simply receive.
Over the last several years, our family has drastically reduced our consumption. Partly because we had to and partly because I have a growing committment to my inner “tree-hugger” and living a more sustainable lifestyle. The vast majority of our clothes come from a local consignment store or are hand me downs from family and friends (with the exception of Racer’s work pants and all our tennis shoes) or are freebie t-shirts from events/promotions. We’ve been reducing the amount of stuff we bring in (even asking family to give “experiences” rather than things), reusing what we can in a variety of ways (vases, art projects, turned pants into shorts) and we take a bin of recycling every week.
But somehow, I still get a great longing to buy. To shop. To spend money on shiny objects that promise to make me slimmer, give a smile, and heal my soul in just 5 simple steps. Well, you get the idea. I still have this urge to shop.
Why? Well, I think the best gem of the book came in December. On Christmas Eve, Judith Levine and her significant other were walking and stopped into a religious service. Although she says they are atheists, I think she write something that speaks so loudly to faith: “But I do want something that religious offer in abundance; the permission to desire wildly, to want the biggest stuff – communion, transcendence, joy, and a freedom that has nothing to do with a choice of checking accounts or E-Z access to anything” (p. 261).
I think there is a void in all of us that is constantly searching for something more. Levine doesn’t think we need religion to find it. I think she’s right there. But we disagree in how we do fill that void, that desire for something bigger than ourselves. You see shopping can’t fill it. Friendship can’t fill it. Marriage can’t fill it. Children can’t fill it. Social activism can’t fill it. Even a life of being content with what you have can’t really fill it.
Only Jesus Christ can fill that void in our souls that we long to have filled.
That, my friends, doesn’t cost a thing.
We simply have to learn how to receive.
And that can be harder than not buying it.