The days leading up to and after Thanksgiving I was bombarded with ad after ad for Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday. They were shouting at me, enticing me, telling me “good news” in the midst of hard times. Free shipping! Buy One Get One! Lowest prices of the year! Such sweet words to my frugal soul. They understood the game of shopping for me— getting the most bang for my buck. Funds had never been overly abundant in my life so deals had always been something to relish and boast of.
But with the many goodbyes and transitions we’ve gone through this year, with the heartache around the world and with the current of fear and grief running through our nation, I’ve lost taste for it. Possessions seem like sand slipping through our fingers in light of it all. Little of what we own will last in value or entertainment or even in sentimentality when life requires us to downsize and move or forces us from our normal lives into the unknown.
Through all the moves I’ve made in my lifetime— from California to Kazakhstan, to Boston and Vegas, and now back again to California, I’ve learned to simplify and shed. I’ve learned to pack fast and take up as little space as possible. Yet the desire for more still rages inside of me. A sign for 40% off or the little red discount tags at Target are enough to make me justify why I really need the thing that’s on sale. I create a craving for something I didn’t desire before with the logic of: I’m totally going to use that. I’ve always wanted one of those. This will be so useful for _________.
Perhaps that’s why the consumerism that hits full force every Thanksgiving weekend turns my stomach more than usual this year. The obsession for more is everywhere I look but especially in me.
The biggest irony of that weekend was how it ended with Giving Tuesday— a day set aside after the masses have literally trampled over one another to get toys and TVs for their families (or more likely for themselves) to donate and support non-profit organizations who fight for the marginalized. It’s meant to kick off charitable giving, but when we’re gluttonously full, do we have anything left in our hearts and wallets? Is there room in our homes and at our tables when the frenzy of the days before had us only thinking of ourselves and our own?
I ask myself these questions and struggle with the answers. I stand in judgment because it’s too easy to look away from all the tragedy during the holiday season. It may even feel necessary to focus on the feel good when the lights are twinkling and the songs are jolly. Nobody likes a Scrooge. But the fact that we can care about certain things at certain times or not care at all is a luxury. I can’t look away from the death and destruction happening around the world or in our nation, and yet, I can. I can choose to stay ignorant or I can choose to become educated. It’s privilege.
The truth is I’m weary of carrying the burdens of those around me- the desperation, the physical and emotional pain- but I’m more weary and wary of turning a blind eye, of gorging myself on distractions and temporal delights, of becoming insulated and unaware. A holy fear cracks my ever hardening heart open to take in another story of broken systems and the people who lose out, the people who die, the people who stay invisible. I let the weight of their lives bear down on me, and I cry out and pray for rescue and deliverance.
I plead with God on behalf of those who were freezing at Standing Rock and also with those who are dying in Aleppo, who are caring for the dying, and who are silently suffering. I intercede for those of us who are cozy in our festively decorated homes but who may be becoming numb with the comforts and safety blanketing us. I ask Him to wake us up and for wisdom and grace to live in the tension of awareness while celebrating together with loved ones this season. I want us to say yes to bringing peace where there is none and to take on the loneliness, depression, tears and hurt around us however inconvenient and uncomfortable it may be.
I mumble these words over and over again till my lips move silently but the ache continues to groan loudly in my spirit: Rescue us from ourselves, and deliver us from evil.