Right now I’m studying the Word with a group of friends, working through the book of Daniel. The study was written specifically to women in the US with a call to be set-apart like Daniel, who refused the richer foods of the king’s table for grains and vegetables. If you are a vegetarian and hoping I will now expound on the glories of meatless living, I’m sorry to disappoint. The focus was determining to seek what God wants from us as opposed to what feels good or comes naturally.
It’s easy for me, on the other side of this ‘terrestrial ball’ to smile a sweet smile and say that a lesson on over-indulgence really doesn’t apply to me. After all, haven’t I just committed to living in a place without steady running water or electricity for years on end? Isn’t the nearest shopping mall, dentist or post office in the next country? Some days I feel I couldn’t over-indulge myself no matter how hard I tried!
It’s true that I am free from assaulting ads selling me an endless list of ‘necessities’. Free from that barrage of choices at the coffee shop – will that be a venti nonfat sugarfree decaf macciato with whip? When you are an alien, it is a whole lot less tempting to get that cute new sweater at that cute new boutique – even if I wanted a sweater (of all things!) in this heat, and ordered it online and shipped it across the world, no one will be impressed here. They haven’t heard of that boutique and don’t care for sweaters. How do I indulge myself? I thought about giving up something for Lent. One friend suggested meat. I count it a special privilege to eat a few bites of beef twice a week, so that didn’t sound like a nutritionally sound thing to sacrifice… how to exercise some self-control even here … I’m still chewing on this idea of over-indulgence…
And in walks my knight in shining armor.
Two years ago Kent and I started this awesome new tradition: Talking. Alone. Sounds revolutionary – I know. But as most anyone with three young kids will tell you, it’s not that easy to find time to talk when you are alone and not completely exhausted! So we instituted a little family meeting just after breakfast to go over the events of the day. At first it was rather formal, but within a few months we had caught up on all the major stuff and could talk less about logistics and childcare and more about what we really think on a given issue. It was during one of these chats last week where I confessed this temptation to exempt myself from this over-indulgence issue in Daniel.
Kent shared something really profound with me (yet again), and since it’s still churning around in my head, I will share it with you. Here it is true that we do not face temptation to indulge in spending money per say, or to indulge in fabulous vacations, pink poodles or fancy cars. (Okay, maybe those didn’t tempt me in America either – at least not toward poodles or cars.) But one thing we are tempted with every single day is to indulge ourselves in solitude and familiarity. Stay. Home. Shut out that complicated, hot, messy, foreign world outside and stay where it is comfortable and familiar and you can mostly understand everyone who is speaking and eat more or less the way you want to. Ouch. I know I have over-indulged there! I have used the excuse that I just don’t speak enough Swahili yet, etc. It’s truly exhausting to go out to market once again, stumble around looking like an idiot, speaking like a 4-yr-old, and find out at the eighth store that what you want to buy isn’t there after all. (Or maybe you find it, buy it, come home and figure out you paid 2-3 times too much for it…)
Indeed I have over-indulged in solitude and familiarity, but not as often as some might think. I haven’t yet figured out how to do all this language and culture learning while renovating a house and homeschooling 3 children. News flash: Kim does not know everything and cannot do everything! This first year here I have put the family and schooling above language and culture learning. And while I find that limiting and frustrating, I know it is right. It is likely the reason our kids have handled this transition so well. So I will ‘shelve’ the jug of guilt over all I could be doing in the community.
This summer over school break we will all, I hope, get out there and get good at speaking Swahili, and until then I will have to be content with looking like an idiot.
It’s good for me.
Like eating brussel sprouts.
So do you over-indulge on something? Are any other Mommies out there keenly aware of what you sacrifice or give up to care for your children?