Message Mondays and Throwback Tuesdays (Retail Therapy)

It has amazed me, and continues to do so, how I see many people latch onto something new. Always whenever I browse the nearest DVD/electronics store in the shopping centre that I frequent, I see many people browsing the latest, whether it be movies, TV shows, CD’s, or even the latest versions of phones, iPads and the latest gadgets like fit-bits and nutri-bullets. And what has continued to amaze me is how quickly we drop that particular thing we purchase after a few weeks, and latch onto the next thing. Since when did we as a human race become so fickle-minded in our purchases? Are we really that bored with our purchases one week that we need to fill that void the next? This is not a griping session, yet in this week’s Message Mondays/Throwback Tuesdays, I delve into the theme of retail therapy, and how sometimes, it can be celebrated and enjoyed, and other moments we may need to take time out, in the view to keep our sanity and the sanity of those around us intact.

Retail therapy can be relaxing, soothing; even mind-numbing to a point. We shop based on instant gratification, rather than thought-out planning, and careful consideration. Rarely do we jump in with our two feet planted firmly on the ground. We rarely ask for guidance, and when we realise we have spent a fair amount just on DVDs alone, our bill is charged. We scowl in disgust, or are amazed with shock, knowing and thinking- ‘surely there must be some mistake!’ And it’s not just with our purchases. I can remember a time when I was a teenager where my movie-going was more a religious activity than church itself. I think, and this is from the top of my head, that there was a year, maybe 2005, where my brother and I saw around 20 movies. And for someone in Year 10 studying the school certificate, 20 was a fair amount. Now… not so much. I haven’t watched a movie, at the movies, since Guardians of the Galaxy. A long time ago, if you think about it.

What’s changed? Perspective, values, even busyness at work. Less contentment because of watching movies/TV and being content where I am because of the knowledge that I am loved unconditionally. Knowing that sometimes, if not often, we don’t have to catch up with the latest craze, be it movies, TV shows or even music, because sometimes, what may speak to us and encourage us the most may not necessarily be the newest thing. A song like “Above All”, written by Paul Baloche in the late 1990s, could still be as impactful as a recent worship song like Bethel’s “Ever Be”. There are some songs, TV shows and movies that are timeless, and some that stand the test of time. And even if we enjoy a good old (not black and white old, just not brand new) movie from time to time, that doesn’t mean that God can speak to us any less in the newer things compared to the old.

In fact, there’s a time and a season for us to dwell upon the movies, music and TV shows of old compared to that of the new. And then there are times where we can indeed be spoken to by the Lord through the new thing too. Yet I have observed- that our spending in stores comes at a cost- that we are not really enjoying our purchases. Dare I say it, and hate me if you want, but I reckon the amount of purchases we as a population amass in a given amount of time has come to a point where we are just amassing things, and aren’t really enjoying what we do already have. Retail therapy has, in some cases for me, become less fun as the years wear on, knowing full well that whatever we buy one day will just sit on the shelf the next, because I, as like many, am still not immune to impulse buying, that whatever I see and I think I may enjoy, I purchase, because as much as I don’t want to admit it, I can sometimes purchase more than I need to. We all do, I reckon.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with spending and buying. It is when we’re just buying and spending, and latching onto the new thing because it is there, rather than thinking things through and figuring out whether in fact we really do need the product that really irks me. Whenever Myer or JB Hi Fi open each day at a local shopping centre I frequent, I see the masses of people lining up. I often wonder- ‘is there anything else they can do that is better than lining up to purchase things they’re probably going to use once or twice?’. And its sad to see that this is what the human race has become- purchasing and purchasing, yet never once enjoying our purchases, because we’re totally captured by the next best thing. The solution? Stop purchasing. Rely more on God to fill our needs than the things we buy. Realise that it is ok not to have the newest iPhone, or not even have a Nintendo WiiU. And while these remedies are easier said than done, I still realise that once we are in tune with why we’re purchasing, and realise we really don’t need the things we amass, than we can be freer than before. We can just enjoy rather than be constantly on the go.

Songs are timeless, as are movies, TV shows and books. We don’t have to latch onto the next greatest thing, yet if this new thing is what it takes for us to lean in closer to the Lord, then so be it. It really boils down to the issue- is this shopping enhancing my relationship with Christ or hindering it? Because whatever we do or say, whatever we express or how we live our lives, is either creating opportunities for the Lord to do His work, or is taking away opportunities for the Lord to work in the ways He wants to work. There is no neutral exchange. And I truly believe it.

We ought not to be ashamed of our shopping, and of our guilty pleasures. Because we ought not to be given a spirit of fear, but of power, hope, love and a sound mind. Who we are defined as isn’t determined by the amount of stuff, or even how recent we purchase our items. But rather, who we are is who we are in Christ. Now more often than not, I try to refrain from purchasing, especially from JB-Hifi. It is difficult, I tell you that, yet it is still rewarding too. Knowing there is no pressure, from others or even from ourselves, to purchase the latest gadgets and gismos. And I like shopping like the next person, but if it is getting to the point where shopping is hindering my relationship with Christ then shopping needs to be monitored closely. Retail therapy is good, yet everything has its limits.

As I finish this post, let me ask a few questions? Has retail therapy drawn you closer to God or further away? Are you always latching onto new things, or are you content with the more timeless items you have around your house? What has purchasing taught you about yourself and God in the process? If you’re cutting back on purchasing items, what are you going to put in its spot? Let us all know in the comments. Til next time.

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