I struggle daily with love for things of this world. The current Powerball jackpot is over one billion dollars. Billion! I have played scenario after scenario in my head of what I would do with all that money. I’ve rationalized that it isn’t greed–I would certainly use the majority of the money to help others. My kids have student debt that weighs them down. How I would love to rid them of that. My mom lives on income that is just barely enough to buy groceries. I would make sure she wouldn’t have to worry about money for her remaining years. There are organizations that do wonderful things for people that I would love to help. I would sponsor many more children. I would help those called to adopt to do so…The list could go on. Of course, there are other things I dream about doing given that kind of money
This weekend my husband and I attended a party hosted by one of the partners of the accounting firm where he works. He has only been there a few months so even he did not know everyone there. As we pulled up to the home of the partner, a woman, I was in awe of the beauty of the houses in this neighborhood. The fronts were all stone with large white pillars adorning the front entrances. Each had at least a three car garage. When we entered the home, my awe continued. Beautiful hardwood floors, built in book shelves around a beautiful stone fireplace, stairs that led to a loft and upper area that housed bedrooms, a full basketball court in the finished basement, a beautiful large backyard, a deck that overlooked it… What shocked me the most, though, wasn’t the size or beauty of the house. I have seen houses like this before. In fact, I know several people who own beautiful homes. What really bothered me–yes, bothered me–was the age of those in attendance. The owner of this home, a partner for a while, had two young boys. I would guess their ages to be 10 and 8. My husband wanted to make sure I met the guy who he reports to. I was expecting someone about our age. Imagine my surprise when he walked in with his wife, carrying their 1 year old baby! I wouldn’t put him to be older than 32. An associate from my husband’s former employer, now working at this new job as well, came in with his girlfriend. He didn’t look older than twelve! My husband assured me he was. He is two years out of college, so he is probably twenty-three.
As I sat awkwardly at the counter, young people all around me, my mind began to play with the what-ifs. What if my husband had been able to be hired into a company as this when he was a fresh college graduate? What if he would have made partner by the time he was forty? How different our lives would have looked. Even more so, how different would the lives of our kids have been? One couple, attending with their daughters of about the same age as the partner’s sons, talked about how they were leaving the next day for a trip to Colorado. Apparently, they take trips quite often. I replayed the younger years of our four kids. I thought about all the things we didn’t do. We took one family vacation in all their years at home. And it was only to Wisconsin! Our kids never had a need for cute little rolling luggage bags to take on a plane, or those cute animal pillows that support your neck on a flight. We bounced from rental property to rental property, finally buying a small, two bedroom house (for six of us, a cat and a dog), only to lose that house after four years. We did not give our kids memories of trips to Disney World or mountains or famous places like the Grand Canyon or Hollywood. The more I thought about it, the more depressed I became. Then, the what-if of my staying home began to dance through my head. What if I had gone to college for a degree that may have provided a good job for me? What if, like that partner, I had landed a job with a big company and been promoted through the ranks? How different would our kids’ lives look then? How much better of a place would we be in now? The dollar signs of the Powerball billboard taunted me as we drove home that night.
Now, I have to say that most likely, if my kids read this, they will disagree with much of it. They will say their childhood was wonderful, that they have good memories, and that they are glad I chose to be a stay at home mom. Perhaps they are being honest; perhaps it is because that is all they knew. Regardless, for me the guilt of not being able to give them vacations and memories sting, and that sting hurts. Maybe had I been able to contribute to the household income, my husband would have not had all that pressure on him. Then, he would have been calmer at home, money issues wouldn’t always be weighing him down, and our marriage wouldn’t have nearly fallen apart…the what-ifs can drive a person crazy.
Yesterday in church, our pastor talked about kindness and repentance. He asked us to consider what it is that God is convicting us of right now in our lives. I instantly knew, for me, it was loving the things of this world. The Bible is clear that we are not to store up earthly treasures. They do not and will not last. A new BMW eventually rusts just as my Dodge will someday do. Yet, how often I look at nicer vehicles and feel the pull of wanting them because they go faster, accelerate faster, have heated seats or remote start. Money can’t buy me youth. Today my firstborn turns twenty-six. I am amazed at how old that makes me. Of course, I know I am old. I have a grandson! But, I look at pictures of my son as a baby and I am amazed at just how young I was when he was born–and how old I look now. My hair has more gray than brown. My skin has more wrinkles, and I certainly am not as thin and athletic looking as I was then. I want to chase after youth and grab ahold of it, yet it is futile to attempt. The things of this earth will pass away. Heavenly treasures will not, though. The things God wants me to chase after will last forever–His Word, eternal life, the souls of others.
Somehow, though, that Powerball jackpot still holds more desire to me than pursuing heavenly treasures. It is here that I find myself today, contemplating why it is so easy to love the things of this world. Isn’t eternal life worth more than the billion dollars I could have if I won the lottery? Isn’t the Bible clear that money gained hastily never lasts? Isn’t it obvious that money doesn’t necessarily mean happiness? (By the way–I struggle a lot with this one. Money may not buy happiness but the peace of mind that comes with knowing one’s bills are paid and one’s kids are taken care of is definitely a nice thought) Apparently, this is an area that God has much work to do in me yet. As I try to battle the feelings of guilt that come with knowing our kids don’t have as many happy memories to look back on as other families do, I also know that my life is probably more than half over. I can’t go back and change any decision I made. As I get older, I realize it is a good thing that I cannot. I do believe God is still working in me and that He will bring me to a point where He is enough for me. I just wonder how much I delay his work by my own self sabotage…