Part of what we did that day was visit a new upscale shopping area near Dayton, Ohio. It is a very nice "open air" mall, sort of like a little village all its own. We meandered through the streets and in and out of the different stores.
There are not a lot of stores there but most of them are pretty upscale. I spent some time looking at some shirts I liked at Eddie Bauer ... until I realized they were $65! No wonder I liked them. The idea of paying more than $25 for a shirt, though, doesn't sit well with me.
But as I went from store to store, two words kept coming to my mind: "sickening consumerism". I couldn't help it. Everyplace I turned, I saw things that were very nice but yet they were things I really didn't need -- at prices that were outrageous.
To make matters worse, I kept thinking about the people in far-off lands with funny-sounding names who are probably working very hard in not very good conditions for very little pay, just so that these things will be available to what really cannot be called anything other than an increasingly hedonistic society.
It seems that we're born searching for something. It starts out as a search for food and a search for comfort. We show our longing by crying and then we're either fed or our dipaer is changed. We are satisfied for awhile.
Later, kids search for approval from their parents. "Mommy, daddy, look at me!" is the call as they try something new. (As parents, we may tire of hearing that but not giving our kids that attention can lead to an escalating parade of things before us, all to get our attention. That escalation can go from the innocence of tricks involving jumping off the back of the couch to the the seriousness of self-damaging behavior if parents do not provide the proper attention.)
I digressed there a bit but, in any event, we're born into this searching. In our early years, we turn to our parents to meet our needs for approval, love, and the sense that we're okay. As our horizons start to expand, we look to friends for those things. There again, I believe that it can often be the quality of our relationship with our parents that determines how soon and to what extent we start to turn to others in search of these things.
And, at some point, we begin this search for material things. It can start at a young age with that search for a candy bar or the latest video game. Eventually it turns to a search for trendy clothing -- style that will help us in getting the love and approval that we're seeking, too.
I went through a period in high school and college when I tried to dress very trendy. Being on a meager budget, I was always looking for bargains but, really, I believed at that time that I would always stay very "current" in terms of my clothing.
Thank goodness that somewhere along the line I have lost that desire. Otherwise, we'd really be broke at this point.
But, still, we search for "things". It may start as toys or video games or jewelry or clothing but soon we're searching for other things -- things that we hope will make our lives more comfortable, more enjoyable. We seek out home furnishings, nicer homes and cars, vacations, electronics, more clothes of course, various "big boy" toys, beads and baubles -- anything that we believe will bring us happiness.
And then reality sets in ... we don't have enough space in which to keep all of our things. So, one of the fastest growing things in our country is the self-storage unit industry. These metal buildings with bunches of roll-up doors spring up in every community ... I think we have at least a half dozen here in our little town, in fact.
So, we seek out and get all of this "stuff" to make us happier and then we spend money to find places to store all of our "stuff".
I have heard of abandoned storage units being auctioned off sight-unseen. Apparently, this happens a lot ... like squirrels burying walnuts, we even forget where all of our "stuff" is located. And then other people come in and pay good money for our "stuff" without even knowing what it is. Apparently, they figure that we all want to store up the good "stuff," so why wouldn't they want our "stuff" just as much as their own "stuff"?
It's all pretty silly, isn't it? We abuse people in other countries to make "stuff" that we don't really need and oftentimes forget that we even have.
Why do we have this longing ... this constant seeking? Everyone will pretty much agree that all of this "stuff" doesn't bring happiness, it doesn't bring redemption or freedom, and none of it is eternal. Yet, we search for it. We seek after it. We long for it.
I believe that ultimately all of the things we seek after as adults are still rooted in the things we seek in our childhood days -- love and a sense of belonging ... a sense that we're okay. We hope to gain that sense of belonging by having the same "things" as other people. That can work to some degree I suppose but it is ephemeral ... fleeting. Here today but gone as soon as those friends move or go on to the next set of friends with "stuff" that looks like ... or perhaps is a bit nicer than ... their own "stuff".
And "stuff" can be more than just physical things ... it can be deep emotional "stuff" that leads to co-dependent relationships.
But, ultimately, no matter where we try to find it, aren't we all seeking the same thing ... the thing we were created to seek ... because He seeks hard after us?