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?