Tuesday, April 10, 2012

What's my motivation?

Another week with Marla and friends in the lovely read-along of 7, or as I like to call it, "What's your motivation?" Everything I read in Month 6: Spending, was affirming, gut-kicking, and a reminder to my heart to focus on the heart of the matter. It's so easy to read the chapter and think that she's just talking about money, but truly, sweet Jen Hatmaker shoots straight to the heart of the gospel and what our lives can/should/need to look like in response. I am thankful for her constant reminders to be more like Jesus and less like "normal".

Even as much as I loved this chapter, I also am having a hard time seeing the immediate applicability of what I gained through reading. That's not true, I see it, but I don't really want to think about it, or apply it. Honestly, I prayed this morning a prayer that looks a lot like Psalm 13, among others. I am weary. This weekend we had what felt like the final conversation with our adoption agency about our daughter. Our hearts ache for the child who will never make it home. Agreeing that she is un-adoptable felt like an acquiescence to the truth we already knew rather than a decision we had to make. I sent out our final adoption update email, then took my dog to the vet to find out that he probably has cancer and needs surgery. This comes on the heels of finding out my body is more broken than I thought it was. And my husband's grandfather dying, and family drama surrounding that. And our youth minister leaving soon to pursue another ministry opportunity, which means the ministry is falling in our laps. And, and, and, and....

It's too much! I feel a lot less like Job saying "Though he slay me, yet will I trust him" and a lot more like "God why do you keep giving me breath?! Why won't you slay me?!"

But do I go to God to comfort my aching? No. I go to Starbucks, Target, Chick-fil-A, Talbots, JoAnns, Amazon and anywhere else I can get that temporary high of "owning" something. I feel so in control in my out of my control life when I can buy something all my own. I know that purchasing is a drug to me. Yet I struggle during times of wanting (emotionally, spiritually) with what is a want and what is a need, physically speaking.

I think I need new clothes, considering I'm still wearing the things that fit me 30-50 pounds ago. But when I go to the store and buy something I get a little sick at the thought of what better use of my money I could have come up with than a pair of pants that doesn't fall off. I want to buy a reasonably priced scooter to save us a ton of money on gas, but then I think about the added costs of a safety course, helmet, riding jacket, etc. and then I feel like it's just me trying to spend money to make myself feel better. And on and on it goes. I know I am in the middle of a life desert, and I know when in this kind of phase I am a purchasing self-soother, and all this knowledge just makes me suspicious of every thought and action. What is my motivation?

Am I saying in my heart the things Jen Hatmaker lists on Day 8 as justification?
  • It's no big deal.
  • I can afford this.
  • I've worked hard for my money, so I can spend it how I want.
  • I want this, back off.
  • I deserve this.**
  • Other people spend way more.*
  • I still have money in the bank.
  • What's the big deal?
( * Jen's excuse of choice. ** Danielle's excuse of choice followed by a tantrum about how hard everything is right now.)

Sometimes the "What's my motivation?" is self-condemnation. Sometimes it is the still small voice of the Holy Spirit reminding me that I am not to be conformed to this world. Rather I am to be transformed by the renewing of my mind. As I practice this transformation, like a newborn calf testing it's legs, I learn how to discern what is the perfect will of God.

I think it's time to re-read Romans again.

The other side of the I deserve it justification is giving. We give to the church. We give to church plants. We give to missionaries. We give to local outreaches. We give to friends who are adopting. We give and give and give. Why shouldn't I take what's left and do whatever I want? How easily I forget that it's all God's, not just the parts I feel led to give away. That he gives any to me to steward is out of his sheer kindness. It is not because I deserve to be able to live comfortably, it is so that I can be a broken clay vessel pouring out his goodness to others. This pouring out doesn't look like drops in the bucket here or there. It looks like walking another mile when only one is required. It is not only giving my extra coat away to someone in need but also giving the shirt off my back. It is the continual, repetitive laying down of my life, money, talents.

And this laying down should not ever be so that I can look like the Pharisees Jesus rebuked who prayed loudly in the street blocking the entrance to the temple, and helped those in need only when people were watching, and changed the meaning of the law to make their lives look better. Oh Lord forgive me for the times, more often than not, that this is what it looks like for me to love my neighbor. It looks great on the outside, but my heart is ugly.
Oh! to be like Thee, blessed Redeemer
This is my constant longing and prayer.
Gladly I'll forfeit all of earth's treasures,
Jesus, Thy perfect likeness to wear.
How I long for this simple hymn to be true in my heart!


  1. This is such a good and truth-filled post. Thank you. I especially was resonating with and encouraged by the paragraph starting with "The other side of the I deserve it justification is giving." And my! You have had a difficult time lately!!

  2. at the risk of sounding like i'm justifying things for you, sounds like clothing (that fits) truly is a need in your life. i'm wrestling a bit with guilt right now as well. i haven't gotten good at figuring out the difference between guilt and conviction, which makes it tough.