The Surprising Ease of Selling my Soul

I had an experience last Tuesday.

I walked into Brilliant Sky for the first time.

And I stopped caring about poor kids.

You may not be aware of this, but we are planning on homeschooling Luke and Anna next year (that was a joke–not the homeschooling part, but the part about your awareness, after last week’s overwrought series on the subject).  Thus, I have spent way too much time researching homeschool curriculum, checking out the legal standards for homeschooling in Tennessee, and discussing with my husband (and my best friend and whomever will talk with me about it) the differences between Singapore math and Horizons math and the pros and cons of buying a multi-subject curriculum package versus a custom-built package.  Needless to say, then, I have been fairly education-oriented of late.

And that’s why, when I walked into Brilliant Sky, I died.  Right there, on the spot.  Dead.

It was so incredible.  So many resources.  And puzzles.  And workbooks.  And great, imaginative toys.  So many kits designed to spark creativity and discovery.  So many fun, intelligent games.  So many crafty items.  So much cuteness.  I could hardly bear it.  I wanted it all.

And in that moment, I just wished I had, like, a thousand dollar gift card for Brilliant Sky.  I didn’t want a thousand dollars to drill wells in Africa.  Or to pay for a child’s education who would not receive one otherwise, while my children will receive an excellent education (or at the very least, a crazy committed teacher) even without one single thing from Brilliant Sky.  Nope, I was so over the “caring for the world” thing.  I just wanted all these wonderful toys.

Because really, why save money to sponsor a Compassion child when you could use that money to buy a portable, magnetic puzzle of the fifty states??  We could keep it in the car for practice!  (I have a real blind spot when it comes to magnetic toys.  They always seem like a genius idea at the time, especially when I conveniently forget my kids’ propensity to lose magnets.  And seriously, fifty magnets in the car–what could go wrong?).  And why buy some much needed onesies for the baby of a young single mom when I can get a set of 26 bean bags with the letters of the alphabet on them?  Think of all the fun games we could play!  Well, actually, I’m trying, and I can’t really think of any right now…but I’m sure there are fun games to be played that would make it totally worth it to have twenty-six bean bags in my house.

As I walked through and admired all the learning tools the store had to offer, I found that it was surprisingly easy to totally forget about all my financial priorities.  Well, I guess I didn’t forget about them, as much as I bemoaned them.  I even had the thought, “I wish I was just really rich, and I could buy all of these things and help the poor.”  Ha!  What a saint I am!  What sacrifice!  “Yes, Lord, I would love to help those less fortunate…if only I don’t have to sacrifice anything to do it!  And in fact, instead of simply not sacrificing, can You also give me everything I want?  That would make it so much easier, trust me.”

Really, I think the store spoke to my deep, deep love for my children…which is not a bad thing.  What is a bad thing is my ongoing temptation to completely focus on them and never come out of my little bubble of “family.”  I realized as I walked through the store that while homeschooling is going to present us with some great opportunities, it is also going to magnify that temptation to turn my back on the world and live for “me and mine.”

I gave myself a good talking-to, and ended up walking out without buying anything.  Frankly, I just didn’t have the money to be spending on frivolous things that we honestly didn’t need.  The experience did make me think, though, about how hard it is to be a good steward sometimes.  

I thought about it again yesterday, when my children were playing with two of their friends in the backyard.  For the most part, they all played wonderfully together, but the green-eyed monster did come out sometimes when there weren’t enough toys to go around.  At one point, both Luke and Anna were highly jealous that their friends were playing with their butterfly nets, even though these nets had been laying around for the taking for most of the afternoon.  So while they pouted and begged their friends to hand them over, I called them each over separately for a talk.  Luke had the hardest time, so his was the longest.  It went something like this:

Me [totally in teacher mode]:  Hey buddy, let me ask you a question.  How many butterfly nets do you think your friends have at home?

Luke:  I don’t know–how many? [He actually seemed curious.]

Me:  Zero.  And that means that the only time they get to chase butterflies with nets is when they come over here.  But you and Anna, you get to use them every day whenever you want.  So do you think you can just let them enjoy using the nets for a few minutes?

[Luke’s answer reflected that he did not think he could do that.]

Me:  Well, let me ask you something else.  Why do you think God let you have a butterfly net?  Do you think He did it just for you?

Luke:  I don’t know.

Me:  Remember, everything God gives us is not just for ourselves, but for others.  So our nets should be as much for our friends as for ourselves.

[Luke started whining, still not buying it.]

Me:  I know, buddy.  It’s hard.  It’s hard to share.  I understand if you can’t do it.  So…if it is too hard, maybe we should just go ahead and give the nets to them?  If we can’t handle having them and sharing them, then maybe we should just go ahead and give them away.  Then it wouldn’t be a struggle anymore.

That last part just came to me, and maybe it is just me, but it made perfect sense in my mind.  All of a sudden, I saw that idea applying to more than just butterfly nets.  There’s no way to ever put it into a hard and fast rule, or even a consistent principle, but it did occur to me that one easy way of solving the problem of using my spare funds wisely was to give them away.  If it is that much of an internal struggle, then why not end it?  Why not just say, “Get behind me, Satan,” and put the money safely in God’s kingdom?

Hmmm…I am going to have to remember that…maybe even next time I’m in Brilliant Sky!

When are you most tempted to throw stewardship out the window?  And how do you keep your financial priorities in focus?

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8 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Tim on April 9, 2012 at 8:21 am

    I know just what you mean about wanting to hold on to resources because of something shiny or tasty or new that pops up. In fact, sometimes it’s even in the mundane. Like I’ll be walking to the coffee shop on the lunch hour from work and see someone who is definitely down and out and I’ll think, “If I give him two bucks it will empty my wallet and then I can’t get my coffee.” Seriously, yikes!

    Thanks for showing me how to give up my butterfly net, Kim. This is a wonderful article, really insightful.

    Tim

    P.S. I have a new post at TRJ, this one on rest: http://theradicaljourney.com/2012/04/09/give-it-a-rest-advice-for-the-energetic-and-exhausted-among-us/
    Hope you get a chance to read it.

    Reply

  2. i understand, i am always wanting to buy those nifty toys for my students too, and wishing that i had a ton of money. i also say that if i had a million dollars (i think there’s a song about that…) i would help “sooo many people” and “give it all away”. but i know that God was smart to give us just what we need, our daily bread and a little to share, because i’m afraid that we would probably spend a lot of it in b&n “helping the poor”…ha. i also believe that giving me my daily bread makes me fear God alone and rely on Him for everything.

    Reply

    • Yep, Ann, I have definitely had my share of fantasies about winning the lottery (you know, the one I don’t play…go figure) and sharing all of my riches. I usually come back to the same conclusion that you do about our need for DAILY bread.

      (However, “if I had a million dollars, I would buy you a green dress–but not a real green dress, that’s cruel”). 🙂

      Reply

  3. Posted by bekster081305 on April 9, 2012 at 4:34 pm

    I can totally relate to this. In all matters with money/possessions lately, I have just had to keep coming back to the idea that everything is God’s anyway. If He needs me to have something, He will make sure I get it. If He needs me to share or to give something away, again, I don’t have to worry about not having it for myself because He will take care of ALL of my needs. (I don’t always remember this. Quite often I don’t, but He does keep proving it to me over and over again.) Also, whatever we give up for Him, He will give back to us with interest, in this life AND in the next. (I can attest to this from personal experience.) As far as sharing things, though, my attitude has really changed since moving here because EVERYONE shares EVERYTHING here, and our friends are not at all squeamish about asking to borrow our stuff. Of course, they are incredibly generous with us too, as much as they can be. It definitely helps to remind me of the fact that nothing is really mine.

    Reply

    • “Everything is God’s anyway.” That’s the thing, isn’t it? Greg’s Easter sermon on Sunday focused on how the resurrection changed everything. He then walked through Acts, highlighting what it meant to live a resurrected life. One of his points was that we don’t live by the world’s standards anymore, and as his example, he pointed out the passage in Acts 2 where the believers shared everything in common. That was, no doubt, a CRAZY practice, but I believe it was based on that very principle that you mention.

      Like you also say, it is definitely harder to DO than to believe, isn’t it?

      Reply

      • Posted by bekster081305 on April 9, 2012 at 8:59 pm

        I wish I could have heard that sermon. In our “gringo” Bible study on Sunday mornings we have been reading and doing a lot of “deep” thinking about the book of Acts. This Sunday we were trying to get inside the mindset of the believers at that time, specifically how the things they had seen and been a part of (Jesus’ life/death/resurrection and the works of the Holy Spirit) affected their daily lives. Obviously we are not in their same situation with everything being so new and crazy, but I think that looking into their mindset can help us to know what mindset we should have now.

        Reply

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