Practicality Vs. Extravagance

Fifth grade me walked around elementary school wearing a pink sweat suit with penguins embroidered on the front and Velcro sneakers. Glasses framed my brown-black eyes, and my teeth boasted braces. I had a vague impression that this look wasn’t quite right for a preadolescent, but I couldn’t figure out how to make the jump to coolness. Maybe awkwardness and dorkiness were a part of my genetic code, like my flat, black hair.

Within the next two years, the braces no longer hid my pearly whites, glasses no longer defined my face, and my 1980’s mom perm had grown out. I was dipping my toe into independence and individuality. I began by purchasing mouthy, extra-large shirts to hide my small frame and dressing like a 40-year-old as a preteen. There was a shifting in who I was.

I started venturing into new stores, trying out different looks. It was the first time I visited The Limited. I was playing it cool, trying to fit in, browsing through dresses in the back of the store. “Aimee, Let’s get out of here! This place is too expensive!” my dad yelled from across the store, for all the shoppers to hear. I was horrified and ducked out of the store, too embarrassed to respond.

The ironic thing is that we were in a comfortable place financially. My parents weren’t struggling to put food on the table. But it felt too extravagant. My parents’ practicality blinded them from seeing my struggling transition from a girl to a young woman. Buying the right clothes felt like buying my way into social acceptance, into friendships, into self-confidence. It is never that simple, but at 13 years old, it felt that way. And it felt that big.

I still find myself often bound by practicality. It gives me the ability to step back, quiet the emotions and momentum, and evaluate logically what I need and what I want. I carefully weigh my desires—the physical fulfillment of them against the actual dollar signs. It helps me to step outside the box, think creatively, and sometimes make willing sacrifices.

My practicality drove my decision to wear my sister’s wedding dress for my own nuptials. It was a beautiful gown that fit similarly and was flattering. I delighted in the cost-effective solution and threw on a new sash to give it some individuality. I enjoyed the ease of making the decision, instead of being overwhelmed by hundreds of dresses and the even larger price tags.

Sometimes I find myself trying to put a price tag on my desires and hopes, and I feel guilty in the midst of extravagance.

It feels as if I am holding my breath, waiting for the season of famine and scarcity. Maybe if I am smart enough and save enough, then somehow those sufferings will never come. I have witnessed enough pain to know the lie in that belief, but it often doesn’t stop my nail biting in the midst of a decision.

It often gets in the way of me believing in God’s extravagant love. “How great a love He lavishes on us…”. I know how incredibly blessed I am, and yet my heart is often asking, “Really God? Are You really lavishly loving us?” Can I learn to stop in the goodness of this place and let go of my fears? Can I stop relying on the calculus in my head, the comparison and contempt, and worship Him in the here and now?

Can I simply rest in His crazy, extravagant, undeserved love?

Aimee is an Asian American physician, recently married to the love of her life.  She loves deep, honest conversation, being silly with her husband and pondering God’s presence in this broken world.  She is honored to contribute to Red Tent Living, but requests anonymity in respect for her personal and professional privacy. b