In our family, we don't give gifts at Christmas, and though we celebrate Hanukkah, we don't give gifts for that either. Although that keeps us somewhat insulated from the lure of the stores in December, we are by no means immune to consumerism. There are always birthdays!
A couple years ago, Bryan and I stopped and looked at all of our stuff. And we had way too much of it. And our kids had way too much of it. Most of the kids' stuff had entered the house in the form of gifts.
We started to become concerned that we were fostering rampant consumerism and stuff-itis in our home. While we were by no means out of the norm, we were afraid that staying on the all-American "more, bigger, better" path might not produce the kind of character that we hoped our children would one day have. Giving our kids gifts is a lot of fun, but we wanted to look beyond the next birthday to the life lessons they were learning.
Once we had decided that we wanted our kids to be less attached to things, we had to decide what we did want them to value. What exactly did we want them to hold dear?
The answer was relationships. We wanted our children to cherish the time they spent with the ones they loved. After all, when all the stuff is gone, those relationships may be all there is left.
So, we looked for ways to practically demonstrate this. We didn't stop buying gifts, but we did cut back. We began picking one or two carefully thought-out gifts, while making the real gift, time (usually with Daddy.) I talked to the kids about this just today, and we all agreed that it was being with Daddy, talking to him, doing things with him, that left the deepest impression, not the stuff that he bought them. Stuff wears out, but pleasant memories just grow sweeter.
This concept isn't really revolutionary, is it? We all know that our loved ones are far more dear to us than things. But the accumulation of stuff sometimes distracts us from fully appreciating them. All that stuff has to be cleaned, maintained, organized and paid for. And all of that takes time-lots of precious time.
I've been struck in a new way lately by the concept relationships as our greatest gift. The writer of Hebrews, as if speaking directly to our present age of materialism, says, "Be content with such things as you have," and then he tells us why we should be content: "Because (Jesus) Himself has said, 'I will never leave you nor forsake you.'" (Hebrews 13:5)
It's the greatest relationship we humans can experience- closeness with God- that can make us satisfied with what we already have! And on a smaller scale, if we value closeness and time with others highly, all that stuff will seem far less important.
"Every good gift and every perfect gift
is from above,
and comes down from the Father of lights."