Just over two years ago we were forced to downsize in a big way. In one fell swoop we went from the “upwardly mobile” to the mobile home park. There were several reasons for our downsize, the primary one being that like many Americans we had become overextended financially and needed to readjust our priorities. In addition to that, we needed to prepare our finances for my husband’s impending retirement. In the face of these sobering realities we realized the best course of action was for us to sell our lovely, spacious home and purchase a smaller home in a neighboring community.
Our family’s downsize revealed to me just how much I cared about what others thought of me. With a careful use of semantics I became quite good at gamely avoiding the outright admission that we lived in a mobile home park. But after a while I found the whole charade exhausting. And the truth is I’m actually very happy and deeply content with the life I’m living in my very affordable, very adorable home.
Nothing will steal the beauty and sparkle of our present lives more than trying to be something we are not. In the pursuit of building and maintaining our social standing and fashionable lifestyle, we can end up becoming slaves to the opinions of others. It’s amazing how much the loss of a job, home, or disposable income can affect our self esteem and self perception. We begin to second guess our worth and value. We might even avoid telling the whole truth. When asked for my shipping address, I used to hesitate to give the space number of our mobile home. I would say “number four” instead of “space four” in an effort to not divulge that we lived in a mobile home park. As if the phone order guy from Office Depot really cared where I lived? He just wanted a delivery address for the printer ink, for goodness sake!
How often do we engage in verbal gymnastics to make our lives appear better than they really are? When asked about our jobs, homes, vacations, clothing, car, education, who we know, or what books we’ve read—we sometimes struggle to be completely candid. We worry about what others will think of us, and want to make sure we appear successful, smart, and happy.
It’s just human nature to want to put our best foot forward, yet sometimes we can become overly vigilant in the guarding of our reputations. Yes, there is a healthy protecting of our reputations, but there’s also an unhealthy guarding of our reputations, which over time is sure to siphon the joy out of our lives.
And it’s not only a “joy” issue when it comes to being consumed in what others think of us. It can become an idol in our lives. Yet, God loves us too much to allow us to bow down to something as fleeting and unimportant as whether someone thinks we’re wealthy enough, socially connected enough, well dressed enough, educated enough, or even spiritual enough. God is interested in transformation and transparency, and He will use every circumstance in our lives to that end. In no way am I suggesting that God caused our financial problems. We did that. But what I am suggesting is that He will use difficult circumstances in our lives for good. The lessons I’ve learned, and the personal growth I’ve experienced, have drawn me closer to Him, and I pray, made me a bit more like Him too.
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