We own the ugliest towel ever made. Dingy gray with maroon and orange stripes.
I have no idea how it came into our possession, but there it was one day in the laundry basket, and it made its way into our linen closet.
And that towel has made that journey from laundry to closet probably more than any other towel we own….because we use it all the time. That towel is the first one I grab to give to any of my absent-minded children to take anywhere, because I don’t care if it ever comes back.
That towel is freedom.
Contrast it to the expensive, monogrammed white towels I insisted on buying that look really nice…as long as they are never used. Don’t wipe your hands on them if you’re dirty. Don’t leave them on the floor- they’ll get dirty. Don’t wash them with any of the other towels because they’ll get dingy. Fold them the right way or they’ll get wrinkled (yes, wrinkled! Towels!)
As I look around my house, I realize I can divide up almost all of my possessions into the kind I own and the kind that own me. The older, shabbier, and cheaper the item, the more likely it is to give me peace and freedom in my life: the “outdated” Formica countertops I don’t need to treat and salt and oil. The “mid-century modern” (read: 1970’s) couch in the basement the neighborhood kids are allowed to play “war” with. The aging Chevy Blazer outside that doesn’t need to go into the shop every time it gets a scratch or ding because we just don’t care.
As long as these things work, why on earth would we ever replace them? Because we’re worried about what other people will think.
How many times do we spend our time and energy and money on possessions that are not going to actually improve our lives, but rather make us slaves to them and the image we are trying to create? How many times have we let others’ opinions (or perceived opinions) tell us what we “need”, when what we have is already working beautifully in our lives?
I venture to say that this single human habit is almost exclusively responsible for the current debt crisis much of the “developed” world is in right now. Yes, it’s possible to spend money we don’t have in pursuit of genuine pleasure, but if we are honest with ourselves, many of us spend based on appearance rather than function…and it’s appearance to others, not even for our own pleasure.
How many old towels, outdated kitchens, and scratched up cars do you have in your life that give you genuine freedom and peace in your life? What new, expensive, high-maintenance possessions are others (either real or imagined) pressuring you to buy that you not only don’t need, but will become a slave to?
What blessings do you enjoy in your life for which you need to stop apologizing?
Being content with possessions others may feel are beneath them takes courage and self-esteem. It also requires a spirit of gratitude and humility:
“For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving…” (I Timothy 4:4)
But the rewards are endless:
“I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength.” Phil 4:11-13
“For godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs….you….flee from all of this….take hold of the eternal life to which you were called.” I Timothy 6:6