Owned (A Lenten Meditation on Excess and Simplicity)
I’ve found myself altogether discontent lately.
Maybe it’s just that I’m tired of wearing snow boots and my sub-zero parka every day.
Maybe it’s just that the sunlight never seems to come bright enough, for long enough.
Maybe it’s that as I pound out miles on the treadmill, unattainable images of which to measure beauty by flash on the TV in front of me.
I turn it off and toss my sweatshirt over the display, but the images still play through my mind.
Nothing is right.
My clothes seem stained or outdated. The sole on the toe of my boot is coming undone. The circles under my eyes hang heavy, despite the amount of sleep I get. The curve of my body seems altogether not right.
My first thought is to update.
What new product can I buy? What piece of clothing is my wardrobe missing? How can I cover and change and contort the curves of my body and lines of my face?
How can I hide?
I am told, over and over as my feet pound on and on that this or that or some other thing will fill the hole, will make it okay.
The treadmill hums beneath me while an immaculate blonde woman explains the trends for this spring. How eight simple pieces can carry you through the season.
I take mental notes.
hummmmmm. hummmmmm. hummmmmm.
Discontent and dull.
Like the snow stuck on the side of the road for too many months now.
I click and browse after putting Cadence to bed.
New lines, new fits, new colors, all promising what I’m lacking.
I find myself in a store.
I go through and try on shirt after shirt, a dress and new jeans. I check the stickers and can’t justify it.
Pesky numbers. I know how many children that sum would feed. I know that the price would help a woman my age anywhere else start her own business, or send her child to school.
I check the tags and know the way laborers are treated in those factories. Bangladesh. India. Thailand. I think of the women and men and children who likely won’t see a cent from the sale of these articles of clothing they – quite literally – slaved over.
I put the items back and leave the store.
Going home, I empty my closet.
Shoes and skirts and pants tossed into paper grocery bags.
I head to the mission immediately, before I can reconsider.
Before I can talk myself back in to “maybe wearing that sweater someday.”
Before I think of an excuse to keep those shoes around “just in case.”
Dropping the bags, the sun seems brighter. My own parka and snow boots don’t seem so bad.
I find myself thankful for their warmth and protection from the biting wind in late February.
It make me wonder…
If I’m told a million ways each day that what I wear and look like, what I paint my face with and what fills my closet, that these are the things that bring me happiness. Yet, they leave me empty and only wanting more. If I’m told that I am worth what I purchase and ultimately what I own, yet feel lost with these things, then who, really, is the owner?
It’s a constant battle. I work continuously at convincing myself that the discipline it takes to live simply is worth it. Keeping up with the Jones’s would be much easier in
some many respects.
I know this though, that I am worth – we are all worth – more than sparrows and fields of flowers, more than any splendor in nature or made by the hands of humanity. We have been bought with the highest, greatest price and ascribed worth beyond measure.
Why would I settle to be owned by anything less that the Creator and Sustainer of my very being?
A slightly more empty closet, and a few less knick-knacks about the house, and I find myself seeing things through a mirror slightly less dim.
I realize I am owned by the things I think belong to me. That more often than not, I am possessed by my possessions.
But this is, of course, what Lent is for; it’s why we are called and commanded to live simply.
And like so many things in this life following the servant Messiah, the way out seems awkward and against every intuition.
Contentment lies not in finally obtaining that which I long for, but in seeing unveiled all I truly have and perhaps (more often than not) sharing much of what has been entrusted to my care.
Because I am the owner of nothing, and it’s only in realizing this that I find freedom from being owned.