WARNING: This post will delve quite deeply into my head. It can be a frightening place, so if you have a weak stomach you may want to avoid it. Otherwise, be warned if you continue reading!
Proverbs 10:4 says ‘He becometh poor that worketh with a slack hand; but the hand of the diligent maketh rich.’ Today’s society seems to have taken this verbatim as a motto for living: in dealings with others, business, politics and ourselves. If you work hard, you will have a better life. Hard workers move up the corporate ladder and slackers don’t. Poor people shouldn’t expect handouts from those of us that work hard to provide for our families – they just need to get up and get a job. These are all ‘truisms’ that I’ve heard in one form or fashion from media, family and acquaintances in all walks of life. Until recently I agreed – wholeheartedly. In fact I was raised that way. Isn’t that the Good Old American Work Ethic? Our immigrant ancestors came here for a better life, many times founded upon material opportunities otherwise not available in their homelands.
I took this Work Ethic so much to heart that it’s been a great source of negativity in my life. It became my crutch, my fallback, my excuse to berate myself and label myself a failure in any and all situations. Didn’t get the job? I should have worked harder. I’m a loser. Didn’t get recognition? If only I had… (fill in the blank with any possible alternative decision or action.) ‘Only’ having a certain amount in the budget? I must be too lazy to do what is really necessary to get more/better STUFF. I was so wrapped up in STUFF – the having or not having it, how to get and keep it – that little else mattered. Many of us fall prey to these same thoughts in this day and age, I would imagine. How can we not, when society as a whole is focused on what we have as a symbol and statement of how good we are?
But in reading Proverbs 10 this morning it suddenly struck me – the Bible simply states that the diligent will become rich. No descriptors there. No qualifications on what kind of riches. Just riches. Then it occurred to me – God was specific here in His non specificity. Material riches are simply one category. What about emotional, physical and spiritual riches? Society sweeps those under the rug. For years I’ve used the excuse of not being materially ‘rich’ to brand myself lazy, a slacker, a loser, you name it. But I can fully appreciate the concept of riches on an entirely new level now.
Why? Because, quite honestly, a couple of months ago I found myself at the bottom of the heap. Rock bottom. (Insert your own definition of that here.) It was at that point in my life, when I truly believed that I had nothing left – no future, no hope – that I started this journey. I was the queen of regret – if I had chosen this path, I would be happy now. If I had done that differently, I would not be in this situation. How did I get here? And through tons of introspection, prayer, writing and self-examination a light bulb slowly started to glimmer deep in my brain. Trust me, there’s miles of faulty wiring in there! Takes quite a while for some of the circuits to fire, if you know what I mean… Slowly the weight of all that extra STUFF started to fall off and I realized that riches have absolutely nothing to do with materialism.
I’m in a place now where the material riches are uncertain, yet I’m happier and more fulfilled than I have ever been in my life. I can truly appreciate the emotional riches that I have through my relationships, my family and my children. My spiritual life has taken on an entirely new direction. It still feels weird to wake up each day not feeling the weight of comparing myself to others: what they have or what they do… But it’s a good kind of weird, and all I have to do is remember the place that materialism took me into to realize how healthy life is and how joyful each day seems now.
Another example: I have a dear friend who has it all. She does. Talent, intellect, spirituality, family and a prestigious career in her chosen field. Oh, and she’s gorgeous. Literally – this chick has it all. Yet she stepped out of her comfort zone to undertake a project that had been on her heart for a while. It was an uncomfortable process at times. Yet the finished product is full of such freedom and joy that she is a transformed woman. I can see an entirely new side of her – full of such emotional and spiritual joy – that has nothing to do with any material stuff. She truly amazes and inspires me.
We should all be so lucky – to live lives full of riches that have nothing to do with stuff. Maybe I’m just the odd one who never realized this before, or thought that the other riches would come after the material wealth. Probably. But I challenge anyone who reads this to examine society’s message compared to life’s true riches. Which will make you more fulfilled?