“I don’t care too much for money, money can’t buy me love.”[i]
But it can buy a lot of nice stuff.
Knowing that love is more valuable than any possession could possibly be, and the richest person in the world is the one who is poor in spirit, giving generously of herself to others in love … I still like pretty things. A LOT of pretty things. Objects. Stuff. Anyone who has seen the inside of my residence knows this about me. So, here — let me show you:
There is something to be said for beauty, of course. Just look at how God creates! (More on that in a future post.) Beautiful things may inspire me to reflect upon God’s unfathomable beauty, but obsessing over objects is not good. I have a grabby tendency. When I see something pretty, I want it. Even when I reason myself out of acquiring, I keep thinking about the thing.
And there is such a thing as too much stuff.
Take my shawl and scarf collection for example:
God has a sense of humor. While I was trying to figure out how I would reflect upon the sin of greed for this blog, my mother injured her knee. (That’s not the funny part.) She is aging, and her calcified knee flares up painfully, especially if she walks up and down the cellar stairs repeatedly. Unfortunately, the laundry room is in the cellar, so she puts a lot of stress and strain upon her knee whenever she washes clothes. Her latest injury caused another discussion about putting a stackable washer and dryer somewhere on the ground floor of our ranch-style home. But where to put them? The hallway closet is the best contender, but that would require the moving of many things to other places. Including many of my things.
There is only so much space in any home and, sometimes, there is simply too much stuff for those spaces.
So I had to confront the reality of my excessive number of possessions. Do I really need all of those shawls, most of which hang in that closet? Can’t I store my linens somewhere else, clearing space for them in my bedroom by getting rid of some old keepsakes or drastically cutting down on the number of scented lotions on one shelf?
This is definitely what might be called “a first world problem.” What do I do with all of my stuff? This I wonder while over half a million people in America are wondering where they will sleep because they are homeless. Tens of millions of people are refugees, forced from their homes by violence.
And I’m feeling grief over getting rid of some of my pretty things?
We may think that we aren’t greedy because our passion isn’t for money and the accumulation of money. Perhaps, like me, you’ve never wanted to be rich. But perhaps, like me, that’s because you already are rich. First and foremost, rich in love — the most sublime of treasures. And, like me and my family, you may also have plenty of possessions. Even though my family isn’t considered among the wealthy class in America, compared to the majority of the world, any lower middle-class American family is materially wealthy. We have money to spend on houses, extra clothing, knickknacks, vacations, and entertainment. I may want to buy more and more pretty things, and with birthday and Christmas presents I may be able to do that — but should I?
The very common dissatisfaction with what we have and the very common desire for more stuff is akin to the sin of greed. And they are both universally human in our fallen world contaminated by the sin of self-centeredness. We want what we want and we are under the illusion that having makes us more secure or more joyful. But it doesn’t.
The Catholic Church builds places of worship materially rich in beauty and splendor, places to be shared with the community, uplifting and inspiring all. But the Church also builds up Saints who turn away from all desire to possess things in order to be possessed by God alone, as we see today in consecrated brothers and sisters who live vows of poverty. My vocation is not to become a nun or a hermit, but I am called to fulfill my vocation in a poverty of spirit that is willing to forsake everything (every thing) for love.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”[i]
Thinking about the upstairs closet becoming a mini laundry room, I see that by lessening my possessions, I will literally make room for my loved one’s needs. Our desire for things and our actions of consumption and possession take up our time, energy, and resources, leaving less for actions of love. Our greediness for the latest fashion or the next best gadget takes up space, not only in our closets and rooms, but in our minds and hearts.
God’s love is all the beauty that we truly need, and God’s mercy is the truest security.
Lent is a very acceptable time for me to get rid of the clutter and stop holding on to material things that don’t matter. It is the season of almsgiving, teaching me to always remember and assist those with sorest need. I pray that God will grant me the grace be rightly inspired by His Beauty and inspire others with sacred wonder, and to do with less and give more.
Lord, may I only seek to be rich in Your Love and truly partake in the generosity of Your Beauty, now and forever. Amen.
© 2021 Christina Chase
(PS. Here’s a way to go shopping for people in need this Lent: gifts.CRS.org. You can also make your contribution a gift to your own loved one, a gift that doesn’t take up space but fills the heart.)
Feature Photo and all photos courtesy of my generous dad © 2021 Dan Chase
wardrobe and decor assistance: my patient mom, Francine
[i] The Beatles; Can’t Buy Me Love
[i] Matthew 5:3
Although crippled by disease, I'm fully alive in love. I write about the terrible beauty and sacred wonder of life, while living with physical disability and severe dependency. A revert to the Catholic faith through atheism, I'm not afraid to ask life's big questions. I explore what it means to be fully human through my weekly blog and have written a book: It's Good to Be Here, published by Sophia Institute Press.