January 19, 2013

I Can No Longer Afford My Ego

For the past several years I have increasingly become an Environmentally Conscious Consumer.  I joined a CSA.  I looked for the "Certified Organic" label at the supermarket.  I bought eggs from happy chickens and beef from cows who ate nothing but grass.

As you know if you are following the continuing saga of how my budget stubbornly refuses to balance and my various rich girl problems, our new financial planner is demanding we adopt an austerity program -- by which I mean he has invited us to add up our income and our expenses and has suggested that we might want the former to exceed the latter.  The nerve.

We've always aspired to live by our values.  We've always fallen short.  But in this small way, I felt like we were making progress.  My husband has always had strong feelings about protecting the environment.  I worry about the human costs of industrialized food production.  So together we could say, "Damn the pesticides!  Protect the farm worker!  Support the small family farm and the local economy!  Eat closer to the earth!"

Problem is, it's expensive.  Organic milk costs twice as much as the cheap stuff, eggs from pastured chickens three times as much.  CSA (community supported agriculture) shares come with more kale and kohlrabi than my family is willing to eat, so there's waste.  We eat a lot of vegetarian meals, but I'm not willing to endure the domestic revolt I'd face if I cut out meat altogether.

I believe there's a lot of good to buying local and organic, and I will continue to do so as much as I possibly can, but, to be honest there's more that's bothering me than loading up my shopping cart with hormone-laden dairy.  I was starting to see myself as the Organic Shopper.

It's remarkable how many ways my ego can find to inflate itself with an Identity.  Organic Shopper.  Home Schooler.  Mother of Three.  Wife of Almost Twenty Years.  Good Citizen.  Anything that allows me to feel Important or, let's be honest, Better Than Somebody Else.

That's not who I want to be.  In my more grounded and grace-filled moments I can notice that the identity that matters is my identity in Christ:  I'm a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17), a temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19), a child of the light and the day (1 Thessalonians 5:5), a branch of the vine (John 15:5), and an heir of God (Romans 8:17).

When I get attached my image, whether I maintain it by what I can buy or what I wear or do or my relationships, I am building on sand (Matthew 7:26ff).  All of that is going to pass away.

And what will be left of me?  Not my money, that's for sure.  It's good to want to protect farm workers or care for the environment.  We may need to find some new ways to do that, to put our time or talent where our treasure may not reach in this season.  Money's been able to buy me a sense of self-satisfaction, but the cost is too high.

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