Something I gave up for Lent this year is online shopping. Yet I’ve come to realize in the past week that buying too much stuff isn’t the most prevalent problem. Yes, I could probably fill a six-foot bookshelf with the stacks of books piled around my room. The thing that is harder than not buying things is not even looking for them.
My younger sister jokes that for fairly large purchases (like a food processor or an iPhone) I start talking about them six months before I get around to buying them. I’ve never been much of an impulse buyer. But this Lent I’m giving up browsing, shopping, and slowly placing items in random online shopping carts. I have had to catch myself at least two or three times already from following links to Amazon or sites with random household products.
Why am I doing this? There are two primary reasons: I spend unnecessary time scrolling through websites and I don’t like what looking at so many material things does to my heart.
The first is the lesser of the two. It is important, though. Time is a treasure for which it is difficult to account. The minutes can slip away quickly as I look at what other books will fit nicely into my library. Or as I scout out birthday presents for family members in advance. If I am continually feeling like I don’t have enough time, then perhaps I need to evaluate how I invest my time.
But that second reason, that is probably what caused me to stop with the shopping and browsing. We live in a very materialistic world, but I’ve always felt fairly simple. That simplicity, though, seems to be more an idea than a practice. And I don’t like that it seems to be a quality I think I have but actually do not. Gazing at all of the things I don’t have yet might like to, makes me feel unsatisfied with what I currently have.
This little heart starts to want everything and it doesn’t need everything. In fact, having everything just makes this heart feel weighed down and cumbersome. One of the most freeing times in my life was walking the Camino with a few changes of clothes on my back and a winding country road stretching before me. People we met were shocked that three young women were walking with zero useable electronics. My mom’s acquaintances seemed a little surprised that we would email every couple of weeks and that it was sufficient for everyone involved. But I loved that simplicity of life.
I get that I can’t live life with just a couple changes of clothes. (My students would definitely comment more on my wardrobe choices if I did that.) Yet I don’t need to buy all the things to make a fully functioning household when that isn’t where I’m at in life yet. And I don’t need a library like the one I’ve drooled over for years in Beauty and the Beast. If the things I own create too much internal chaos or distract me from the Lord, then their role is no longer useful but enslaving.
I need this time of Lent to distance myself from distractions. I’m not doing it perfectly, but I’m trying to do it. How I wish my Lenten penances could be far more difficult than simply not online shopping or browsing. Yet this is where this little heart is at currently. Too quickly, she is caught up concerning herself with a world she was only ever meant to be in, but not of.
What aspects of your life are causing internal chaos or distraction? What things (or people, situations, or events) are causing an attachment to the world but not the Lord?