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Enough is Enough: How Many Square Feet Do I Need to Live In? (And Other Superfluous Questions)

A sneaky little corner of my heart occasionally (okay, often) suggests that I'm more holy than those around me. This is a lie, of course, since filthy is filthy next to God's perfection. There are many ways to crave things other than God, so materialism and success are not the only idols vying for affection in our post-modern culture.

Sure, I am more than satisfied with a 2-bedroom, 900 square foot apartment, which is plenty big enough to feed and entertain all the friends and strangers I could invite (and much easier to maintain than a larger space would be). I am quite happy with our nearly ten-year-old (reliable) cars, both of which were practically gifted to us. We have enough technology to keep us connected, but not enough to keep us tethered. We have enough toys to entertain a toddler through a six month winter, but not so many that clutter gives way to chaos. And while I used to think being professionally successful would be rewarding, the decision to halve our income so I could be with our kids revolutionized our home and our marriage.

Sometimes I find myself mentally sighing at those who seem to think a larger house, nicer vehicles, or an accomplished career will bring satisfaction. Yet even this prideful condescension ignores that both what I have and what I want are gifts from God. I used to want a 4-bedroom house in an affluent Buffalo suburb that is near to my heart (and my family). When I pictured my "perfect" life, it included sending my (perfect) children to the best school district in the area and being extremely involved in their over-achieving lives. No longer craving those things is not a testimony to my "goodness", but to God's faithfulness. He can change the hardest of hearts, even mine.

Practically, I love the approach John Wesley employed (What Wesley Practiced and Preached About Money) -- living at a set income, even when God blessed him exceedingly beyond his initial situation.  Furthermore, I know that the correlation of happiness and income is a bell-shaped curve (The Salary That Will Make You Happy - Hint: It's Less than $75,000)).

Yet today, my heart's hypocrisy on these matters became increasingly apparent. My family is about to embark on an adventure that will be funded primarily by affluent, generous Americans: people who have achieved financially, and now desire to give out of their excess. Additionally, my heart is deceitful above all things, and beyond cure. I am a liar if I claim I do not covet. Perhaps I have fewer possessions than many Western Christians, but I have substantially (indescribably) more than most people around the world. And even more importantly, materialism and the pursuit of success are not the only temptations I face.

Every day, I fail at living a life satisfied by Christ alone. Every day, Christ's sacrifice covers my failure. I desire to control situations and relationships, rather than trusting them to God. I hold others (and myself) to impossible standards of performance, friendship, and Christianity. I value my agenda over others' needs. Christ's sacrifice is sufficient for these and a hundred other failures of mine.

He is enough. When I don't live out this truth materially, professionally, or relationally, I am preaching to myself a message of supreme importance: repent of pursuing life and satisfaction in anything but the completed work on the cross. Live circumspectly, and humbly. This is not home.

The important question, then, is not whether and how I should downsize my life (e.g., how many square feet do I really need to live in?), but how my daily failures in the "already, but not yet" can point me (and others) to a gracious God. One day, a multitude from diverse nations and circumstances will  sing a song of God's redemptive goodness towards His people (Revelation 7:9-10).  Until then, a life of repentance sings loudly of Christ's "enoughness", regardless the achievements of my children, the success of my career, the age of my car, or the size of my house.

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