DH = Dear Husband
“where free, abundant living stops and addictive, wasteful excess begins”
I remember a guy I dated when I was 19 saying that his mother, on a recent business trip, had been in a restaurant where people paid $50 for lunch – which would be $125 in today’s dollars. It was clear that he wanted to be in a position some day to buy that kind of lunch. I suggested it was a bit of a shallow ambition, but he defended it. “That’s freedom!” he said.
Two of my favourite Bible verses are Galatians 5:1 and John 10:10. Here they are:
- It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. (Galatians 5:1)
- The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. (John 10:10)
The words”freedom” and “abundant life” sum up what I ultimately want. But I haven’t always been clear on where free, abundant living stops and addictive, wasteful excess begins. Marketing machines are brilliant at confusing us with manipulative messages of what it is to live a full, free life. I have often thought of freedom in terms of the freedom to indulge – whether in food, drink, entertainment, shopping or travel.
In the past while, I have heard a message from three different pastors that relates to the line between abundance and excess – freedom and bondage. When I hear the same message from three different sources within a fairly short period of time, I pay close attention. The first two, I heard via YouTube, the third in church this past Sunday:
- Andy Stanley: “Your appetites aren’t meant to be satisfied.”
- Ravi Zacharias: “Daniel was setting himself up to have limits on his appetites.” (Daniel would not eat meat or other rich foods when he was in captivity in Babylon, and he would not drink wine.)
- Pastor Ian: “When God gives you something, it’s to fulfill the desires of your heart. When the enemy gives you something, it’s to put you in bondage to it.”
Avoiding “appetites” in disguise
I had a conversation with DH about Mrs. Frugalwoods a couple of months ago. I find her to be a marvel. Early on in life, she made the connection between frugality and abundant living, and now, in her very early 30s, she’s financially free and living in the homestead of her her dreams, raising a family in a two-stay-at-home-parents scenario. “She didn’t have to overcome any bad spending habits or debts because she never went there in the first place,” I said to DH. “If she had ever got a taste for buying on credit that she couldn’t pay off, it might have been a different story.”
I don’t know if Mrs. Frugalwoods intentionally avoided an “appetite” that might have led to “bondage”, but I have a friend who did. In her family, there is a history of alcoholism, and so she chose from the get-go never to drink a drop of alcohol. She says that she thinks she has an addictive personality, but she’s not living with an addiction. She set herself up for that freedom
Both alcohol and over-spending can be seen as appetites in disguise. They both give the appearance of abundant living.
The role of “starvation”
In January of this year, I went completely off desserts. Like many people starting off the new year, I had a resolution to shed some pounds. The first week and a bit were tough. My cravings for a muffin or a cookie or left-over Christmas baking were intense. I had to fight my own slick sabotaging line of thinking that I could have “just one” – because it was never just one. That’s why I had the excess pounds to lose. But part way into the month, it wasn’t hard anymore. I had effectively “starved” my appetite for desserts.
I believe our appetites to spend can be starved too. DH has always loved cars. He bought his first car at age 17 – a used junker that he could afford and that he enjoyed fixing up. Ever since he started working though, he has always bought new. I remember the day he drove up to our house last summer in a brand new Dodge Journey. I knew that was the vehicle he wanted to get at some point – whenever our ’99 Dodge Caravan dies – but I didn’t understand why he was driving one now. “I’m taking it for a test drive,” he said. He had gone to a dealership to take a look. “Want a ride?”
It was definitely a nice vehicle, but I didn’t enjoy that test drive. We had just paid off all debt besides the mortgage, and I thought that DH’s old temptation to splurge was happening – that his own slick sabotaging line of thinking would convince him that we “needed” to replace the van. I let DH know what I was thinking, but he denied it. As it turns out, we didn’t buy a new Journey then, and in the past few months, DH has been saying that when we do replace the van, we should buy used. I never would have guessed that his appetite for new cars could be starved, but it looks like it has been.
On the other hand, I think we all know people who are too highly controlled to enjoy a free, full life. Their avoidance of excess has morphed into something unhealthy – like avoiding nourishment. They don’t only “starve” their unhealthy appetites; they starve the life out of life. I think that many people link this type of life-starvation with the word “frugality”. Fruclassity is all about balancing frugality – and its “starvation” of life-sucking appetites – with “class” – or a permission to spend on what truly is life-giving for us – to feed with healthy nourishment what should flourish.
Finding the line
The line between abundant, free living and wasteful, addictive excess can be hard to identify, but I can think of three questions to ask that might help:
- Are you able to have “just one”? If so, have one. If not, don’t have any.
- Are you counting on this to give you that freedom of abundant life? Then don’t. Or are you choosing it as a nourishing expression of the abundance and freedom you already have? Then go for it.
- Wait. Is what you are left with a cranky craving? Then don’t. Is what you are left with a genuine desire of your heart? Then make a plan to go for it.
I wonder if my old boyfriend is now “free” to eat lunches for $125? I hope not. For his sake, I hope he’s found abundant freedom of much better value.
Can you relate to this idea of being confused about the line between abundance and excess? Have you ever “starved” an unhealthy appetite? Your comments are welcome.
*Image courtesy of Flickr.