Ok, so this post is rather personal. But I hope that in sharing, others might be helped to recognize similar failings within themselves and be able to start rooting them out. Also, I'd like to ask any readers to offer a few prayers that I may grow to be humble in spirit, and not just in lifestyle...
As I mentioned in a previous post, Tom and I are renting the house we live in now, and recently renewed the lease for another year. It wasn't exactly what we wanted to do, but we pay so little for this place, and we still can't afford to pay any more than what we do. Recently, I have noticed the same sort of phrases creeping into our conversations. Remarks like, "ugh - I can't wait until we have a bigger living room, so we can actually invite people over sometimes" or "it will be so nice one day to have a backyard we can actually do stuff in" or "I really wish we had a linen closet for all these towels." Just lots of wishful thinking. By simply paying attention to the way we discuss our house, I've realized that we've been fooling ourselves. We really aren't content with what we have. That's a dangerous way to live. But I think in our case, it was an especially needed wake-up call. Because too often, I think we tend to pride ourselves on how well content we are with living in more humble circumstances than we really want to. But see, that's just it - if the whole time we are wanting for more, than we were really never experiencing true humility to begin with.
It's true that money is tight right now. But just because we live - in some regards - in a humble manner (purchasing a lot of things second hand, renting a cheap house in a cheap neighborhood, repairing instead of replacing)...it doesn't necessarily make us humble. True humility means being not only satisfied with little, but also....well, I guess being thankful for that little that you have. To be aware that you are dependent on God for everything.
And of course, being humble doesn't just refer to having or not having a lot of money. Even wealthy people can be truly humble. But I bring it up in the context of material wealth/objects because I think it's an area in which I sometimes perceive myself to have humility, when in reality, I probably do not.
I have noticed myself too often tempted to feel PRIDEFUL about my "humility" (two words which are exactly opposite!). To actually think I am somehow better than other people who spend more money on things than we do. Maybe I'm being a bit hard on myself, but I wonder if sometimes the comments we make to our friends about how we snagged a great deal on something at a thrift store, or how we can't afford to move yet this year are actually some weird way of almost bragging about how good we can be at "living humbly"? Perhaps some people do spend more than they should, or they do value material objects too much. But that's not for me to judge. It's obvious that I must not truly be content with our lifestyle, if I can't be fully content with others having higher living standards than we do.
I've noticed this recently in regards to baby objects. It's amazing how many products and furnishings are designed especially for babies. And yeah, people could probably get by without most of these. But at the minimum, I think most parents will probably want: a crib, a cradle/bassinet, a changing table, a dresser to keep baby clothes, a highchair, a stroller, a car seat, and of course clothes and blankets. In addition to that, they might want a bookshelf for kid books, any of the moving baby devices: swing, bouncy chair, walker/jumparoo, a baby tub, an assortment of toys and books, and any number of other little things for hygeine, safety, etc.. If everyone bought all those things, and bought them new, they would have to spend a FORTUNE. And what kills me is that a lot of parents do. I know for a fact that if people are willing to look, and willing to accept something secondhand, they can get a lot of baby items for dirt cheap. And every time I see other parents buying top-of-the-line strollers or brand-new matching baby furniture sets for over a thousand dollars, I automatically think less of them. I know I shouldn't. But this is exactly the false humility I'm talking about. I wonder if there's also an element of jealousy to the pridefulness...
In the past few days, I've been trying to attack these prideful feelings in small ways. I had a talk with Tom about the dangers of our wishful thinking, and about how just because we try to save money and get good deals on things we can't let ourselves think less of those who don't do the same.
I also realized that I was never really "putting my all" into my housework, simply because I knew that this house is just temporary. I mean, I've always been good about doing laundry and dishes, and those day-to-day things. But scrubbing out the bathtub good and hard? Dusting the baseboards or deep-cleaning the floors? Why would I want to waste my time and energy on a rental? I'll save that for my future home - a place we own. I've realized that this was, of course, only ADDING to my discontent with the current place. As a wife, and especially as one who has chosen to stay home and not work full-time (thus being, by definition, a "housewife"), I truly believe it is a part of my Vocation to care for my home - to keep it clean and welcoming and comfortable. And I see now that I haven't been letting myself think of this place as truly "home," and therefore have not valued it for what it is. It doesn't matter whose name is on the ownership papers. Wherever a family lives and loves - there is Home. [someone should quote me on that! ;-)]
So I've now been going to town on the scuffed-up walls (with my awesome Mr. Clean Magic Erasers), scrubbing the back of the toilet, wiping down the lightswitch plates...all the little tasks I expected to save for my "real home." Because for now, this is my real home, and taking care of it is one way I can serve my family. And besides, if I don't get into these habits of thinking and acting now, I may find myself never wanting to live up to my duties.