“No slave can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.”
So let me tell you about this amazing little black dress. No seriously, it is really cute. Well, you can see for yourself in the picture. Simple, classic, timeless. It also has a bit of an edge with the leather like sleeves, just enough of a rocker girl “nod” to make any young professional feel a little pep in her step while going to work at a non-profit. Here’s the rub. I could not afford it this week. I had some unexpected house, school and medical expenses. There were also a couple of extra donations I gave, and well, it just was not in the budget.
Here is where the spiritual maturity question kicks in, whom do I serve? God or Banana Republic? On first reading or glance it might seem trivial, or perhaps, like an easy answer. It is most definitely a first world, privileged, middle class spiritual struggle; I will give you that in a heartbeat. I am not going to lie to you though, I was downright sad for a good 48 hours that I could not buy this dress. I WANTED this thing. I did all sorts of calculations and tabulations to figure out how I could own it. Even though I did not end up purchasing it, I have allowed it to own much of my time, energy and spiritual wealth. In many ways it has already bought me.
You see though, for me, it is a much deeper struggle than just wanting a pretty item. In the past five years, I allowed much of my life to spin out of control. I gained over fifty pounds. I became lax in my spiritual disciplines. I have not taken care of myself in physical, emotional and spiritual ways. I sacrificed my health for other aspects of my life that I thought were more important. This past January, I committed that starting in 2013 I would work to gain back more balance in all areas of my life. I am taking steps to improve my health, which means, among other things, I am on another weight loss journey (about the fifth one in my life so far). So this recent loss of now almost thirty pounds means while working typical 10 hour days, going to graduate school, and being in a relationship, I feel like I deserve every dress I can fit into for goodness sake—including this really cute little black one. For the past three years I have barely been able to wear anything!
But, I can’t serve God and money. I can’t serve God and dresses. I can’t serve God and my new body. I can only serve God. As I read about the early desert mothers and fathers of the Christian tradition who gave up everything to seek God in the desert, they were serious about renouncing idolatrous behaviors, thoughts and practices. They abandoned anything that distracted them from the passionate search for God. As I read about their faith this weekend and I listened to our sermon this morning, I thought about my own dress idolatry. I have spent a good amount of time plotting a way to own something that would not bring me any closer to God this past week. What if I had spent that time praying? What if I had focused my energy listening to a friend who needed a compassionate ear of understanding? What if I had done anything that was not focused on a vain glorification of my own accomplishment?
I don’t think pretty dresses are bad. I don’t think God means for us all to walk around in sackcloth all the time. I do think, however, that we ought to take inventory of the proportion of our time spent seeking after God versus seeking after the things of this world. What master are you serving? I want to serve and seek God.
May it be so…