Thursday, May 6, 2010

The Great Realignment

A few years ago we started hearing that America's roaring economy was fueled by credit; millions of Americans, including a great many Christians, were up to their ears in debt. The fuel for that roaring economy wasn't just credit but also materialism as millions bought things they didn't need with money they didn't have.

And it was abundantly clear that changing that, getting Americans and especially Christians to refocus their desires and spend less than they earn, would cut our economy off at the knees.

Well, that's no longer a problem. Our economy is on its knees. Millions are out of work. Millions have taken pay cuts or lower paying jobs. Credit is harder to come by. Even the affluent have cut back on their spending — out of caution, guilt, or simply a desire to blend in.

So where do we go from here?

A major disruption in your life presents an opportunity to change bad habits. We're at one. We can decide to do things differently than before.

The "Great Recession" can result in a great realignment. We can re-evaluate what we're going to value. Instead of toys, we can decide to value simple pleasures.

Recently I took a stay-at-home vacation. Originally I did it because I have much more vacation than my wife. (Where am I going to go without her? Why would I want to?)

But as it approached, I began to look forward to it more and more. The simplicity was so appealing. Instead of going somewhere with the hassles of driving or flying, I stayed home. Instead of bustling the kids around on a schedule of all the sights we wanted to see, I sat in my reading chair. No hotels, no looking for a decent restaurant, no packing or unpacking. I slept in my bed, ate in my kitchen, watched my tv, read my books, and generally had a marvelous, relaxing week. And my expenses that week were less than they would have been if I'd gone to work — and much less than if I'd gone to Disneyland.

Now I plan to make it an annual event — hopefully even with my wife.

I read a while back that in Finland they don't have big houses or nice cars but enjoy a quiet, simple life. (In part, because of their confiscatory tax system, which we do not need to emulate.) I hope and pray we can move in that direction, if not all Americans, at least the American church.

If we live a lifestyle that allows us to give away 10% of our income and save 10% of our income, we'll find a happiness that can't be bought for 110% of our income.