this past weekend we celebrated one of the most exciting days on the christian calendar: black friday (what, you thought i was going to say thanksgiving?).
retailers report that moving the commencement of black friday to thursday evening was a smashing success. it has become a frenzy that overtakes people…even christians.
is it possible we’ve crossed the fine line between shopping to give and shopping to self-gratify?
now that i’m a grandfather, i find that i am much more impulsive than i used to be. planning goes out the window. if my grandchildren seem excited about some particular toy, i will go to (almost) any length to get it, and i will have a ball observing their reactions when they open the package on christmas morning. i confess, though, that i am a little hurt when they lose interest in about 8 minutes, and the treasure i worked so hard to find is forgotten by new year’s day.
why would i care? when did christmas become about how great the gifts were?
i remember many of the family christmas gatherings from my childhood. i remember special moments with my grandparents, and embarrassing encounters with my cousins. i am moved by warm memories of earlier editions of my mother and father as they enjoyed the squeals of joy from their kids (just like the ones that i am now enjoying with my grandchildren). and not one of those memories involve a gift. in fact, i can remember almost nothing i ever received.
so why do we get so wrapped up in shopping?
to be honest, i like the way shopping makes me feel. comparison shopping becomes a competition, and finding a “deal” feels like a victory. and it’s all so easy to justify because, after all, i’m not spending money on myself…i’m simply trying to make others happy.
tim challies articulated the problem beautifully (and painfully) in this post:
Recently I’ve been convicted of my own propensity to try to spend my way into happiness or fulfillment. I’m no shopaholic and more often than not I do not buy the things I find myself drawn to. So it’s not the act of buying that disturbs me as much as the pull I feel. When life is busy I feel like buying that new device or that new piece of software will restore order. When I’m bored or feeling down, I can find myself thumbing through the Best Buy catalog, just browsing, hoping to notice something that will make all the difference. It’s joy I want, and I somehow think I can buy it.
am i suggesting we should stop buying christmas gifts? of course not. but as for me, i am going to be more aware of what’s really important. i understand that i will enjoy precious few holidays while my grandchildren are small. while i have the opportunity, i plan to invest far less emotional energy in finding trinkets that will end up in a garage sale. instead, i will make sure i am “in the moment” with them, making relational memories that have a chance to last.
and maybe even provide some genuine joy.