Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The purse-uit of happiness

On Monday I was shopping in Target, just a quick trip to pick up a few odds and ends, and I found myself drawn to the purse display. I really, really wanted a new purse, something snappy and bold, different from my typical drab brown purses. Now granted, my current drab brown purse really did need replacing before the handles fell completely off, but if I was entirely honest with myself, I had another drab brown purse sitting in my closet that would work perfectly fine. I didn't want brown though. I wanted green. Or maybe purple. Specifically, I wanted this purse:



Isn't it cute? And green? Nothing drab and brown about that purse.

But I didn't get it. I HAD another purse. And with car repair and emergency room bills coming due I just couldn't justify the expense. Not even as an early birthday gift to myself.

Today I made a quick trip to the thrift store to look for some new jeans. (Maybe someday I'll write about how much more I love thrifting now that I'm not forced to buy orange polyester pants.) New jeans were a necessity because I was one split seam away from having nothing other than athletic pants to wear. And that split seam was looking like a very real possibility. Plus, I just like being able to breathe when I'm wearing clothes. Just for kicks I detoured past the purse rack.

And there it was. Shining amidst the sea of brown and black in all of its beautiful green glory. I had absolutely no problem justifying the purchase at thrift store prices!



Isn't she beautiful? It makes me happy just to look at it.

There was a time in my life when I would have thought "Wow, God really wanted to bless me today! Look at how he gave me the very thing I wanted!" Or maybe I would have thought it was some sort of divine response to my faithfulness in tithing, or in completing our building fund pledge even in the face of the aforementioned car repairs and emergency room bills.

But I'm not so sure anymore. Because if I go down that road, then I have to ask myself why God would bother to give me a new purse but let a child in Africa starve to death. I have to ask if my faithfulness in my finances is really all that special in the face of the faithfulness of the persecuted church, most of whom are probably not receiving any purses as signs of divine favor. Does God really care so much about my happiness that he bothers with the little stuff like a purse?

In all honesty, I'm just not sure that he does. His sole desire is that I pursue HIM and find my joy in him. God is not some cosmic Oprah sitting in heaving saying "YOU get a new purse, and YOU get a new purse and YOU get a new purse! You all get new purses!!! Except for those of you too poor to come to the studio. You're out of luck." The theology of blessing doesn't seem to have much to do with material goods, but everything to do with the spirit.

Had I not found this purse I would have probably gone on being content with my drab brown purse and sometime in the future when our finances were more secure I would have purchased the purse I wanted. It would never have occurred to me to think that God loved me less because he didn't provide one. I think perhaps that is one of the keys to happiness; not holding out our hands to God like little children begging for a toy, but sincerely delighting when one happens to drop into our path.

What say you? Agree? Disagree? Think green purses are too blindingly bright? I'd love to hear what you think.

3 comments:

  1. Well for starters, the more color during winter the better!

    As for the material blessings verses children suffering in Africa, I think those are two separate issues. I do think that God does bless us with stuff, though not necessarily as a reward tool. I.e. it's not "you did such a good job with xyz, now here's a purse." I tend to view those sorts of blessings as I would a present from my own parents, because I view God as the perfect loving father who occasionally likes to give his children gifts. And even if I'm wrong on that one, I still like to thank him all the same.

    I can see though how you would find that confusing then with what I've seen termed as "the problem of evil." In other words, how can a perfect loving God allow such horrific things to occur. This is where the theology of "open theism" makes sense. As I believe in God and angels, I also believe in Satan and demons. Like us, demons have free will, and can exercise that free will towards their evil purposes. God doesn't do the evil stuff; I don't for one second believe that pain and suffering are God's will for us. Our world deals with pain and suffering resulting from our own poor choices and actions, and the efforts of Satan and his crew.

    Closed theism attributes every minor detail that happens to God's machinations. As though he micromanages every single thing that happens in our lives. If that were the case, then do we really have free will? For instance, if God knows that I will choose Cheerios for breakfast, did I really choose or did God choose for me? Open theism still allows for God's omniscience, but phrases it that God knows all that the future "might" hold.

    Bah, it's crazy complicated stuff that I'm just starting to get a handle on. I do straight up believe this though, "God has never needed evil to accomplish his good works." I don't believe there is a divine purpose to the horrors seen in our world. I don't believe that my God, who is all loving, would will that for anyone.

    Greg Boyd did a wonderful job addressing this issue in a sermon called "Held." I highly recommend checking it out if you have the time! http://whchurch.org/blog/1576/held

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  2. Michelle - Thanks for your very thoughtful comment. In theory I'm an open theist, but I still struggle to get a handle on what that means in a practical sense. Our church has Boyd's 'Problem of Evil' video series...I need to borrow it sometime but in the meantime I'll check out that sermon.

    I like the analogy of a parent giving gifts, but I guess the part I'm trying to sort through is that it wouldn't make sense for a parent to repeatedly give one child a gift while giving nothing to the others. I don't know, maybe he gives them different kinds of gifts.

    Anyhow, thanks for responding!

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  3. i have tried to respond to this post 3 times and keep erasing it, because i'm not sure what i think.

    i do think that the green purse is cuter than your brown purse (which i have not seen). of that, i am pretty sure i am sure.

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