Here is something I have realized in the short amount of time I have been writing this blog. “Going green” is a resolution, and like all best intentions (January diets and daily devotions), it is easy to get side tracked and fall back into lazy old patterns. We have become such a society of convenience and instant gratification that the concept of disciplining our personal lives is almost foreign, notice I said almost. Our family started out with the best of intentions, we still have those intentions, but I have observed all of us, on occasion, drifting back into old patterns.
I have actually found it easier to make the big changes, like making our own detergent and turning off the air conditioner, than to keep up with the little things; like turning off lights when we leave a room or using a hand towel to dry our hands instead of reaching for a paper towel. (It is the initial thrill of getting saved versus the daily grind of doing devotions.) When things are new and exciting and we can all still feel that sense of purpose it is easy to cheer each other on and keep our goal of greener living in the forefront of our minds. As these same things become mundane daily activities and the excitement of our initial purpose wears off it becomes easier to reach for the paper towel on the dispenser beside the sink than to walk to the cabinet and get a clean dish towel.
Two weekends ago, at the Sustainability Fair, we received lots of swag (and no the irony of giving away lots of free new stuff at a fair about recycling is not lost on me). In our loot haul we received close to a dozen grocery bags, you know the kind made from recycled plastic that are reusable over and over again so we do not have to bring home the flimsy plastic ones from the grocery store that almost instantaneously choke the landfill? I will be the first to admit, I had lots of uses for the flimsy bags, mainly it made litter box clean up super easy, but I also realize how detrimental they are to the environment and that they are an unnecessary step. I can just almost as easily move the garbage can to the litter box and skip the plastic middle man.
The first couple of conscious trips to the grocery store were easy. Recycled bags in tow, we got up on our morally superior high horse and gallivanted off to the market. (I have found that when using these bags it is easier to bag my own groceries than to let the bag-person do it, they will throw the first few things into the recycled bags and then quickly begin filling in the gap with plastic. Of course since they also like to use my three dollar tomatoes as hockey pucks I tend to bag myself or have Fred bag anyway.) We came home with our sense of purpose and moral superiority fully intact. Fred and I were very pleased with our eco-conscious grocery trips. We are taking lots of small steps towards smaller foot-prints in the market. For example we no longer put our fresh produce in those flimsy little extra plastic bags that are immediately tossed as soon as we get home and we try to purchase organic whenever possible.
After our first trip to the grocery store with our new reusable bags our cat Bettie quickly put us in our place and gave us a show-and-tell lesson about just what she really thought of our inept efforts at going green. As I was unloading the groceries in the kitchen she took a pee in one of the new reusable bags. Um, that one may now have been relegated to a one time use bag. Bettie has a great disdain for our meager attempts at a more sustainable existence as she made painfully and messily evident. I rinsed it out and put it on the back porch. I may try to put it in the laundry with the rags this week, but I think a cycle through the washing machine will probably destroy it.
All the grocery bag drama aside, the real point of this entry is how we need to constantly renew our motivation as a family to better planning and organization and our commitment to going green. You see after the initial thrill and newness of our grocery bags wore off I found myself falling right back into my old shopping patterns. We would make a big trip to the market once a week. On this trip we could remember to take our bags. Then through the week I would find myself running to the store to get one or two items, forgetting the bags at home and coming home through the week with several of those insidious plastic bags, stuffing them back into the closet to be used as cat poop receptacles.
Yesterday found our family in a mad rush all day trying to cram a weekends worth of activities, from church to birthday parties to grocery shopping, all into one twenty-four hour stretch. This left us at the market late yesterday evening without any of our recycled bags. It did not even cross my mind until we were standing at the car loading our groceries into the back. I admit when I realized what we had done I was more than a little ashamed of myself and embarrassed that I might be seen by someone who reads this blog and judged by my actions.
I could not help but draw the parallel between this and my spiritual life. In Sunday school yesterday morning we talked to the kids about the difference between being a Christian and being saved versus really having a relationship with God and knowing what his will for our lives is. We talked about the difficulty of having a relationship with someone to whom you never speak or to whom you never listen. Like my grocery bags that do me no good at home in the closet my Bible does me no good at home on the coffee table. Furthermore if I only pray when I am desperate or in need and only open my Bible sparingly, like a divining rod, how can I really expect to have a functioning relationship with God or to be a good example of Christ for others.
As we loaded our plastic bag shod groceries into the back of the car the shame I felt, the embarrassment and fear of someone seeing me was very much akin to the feelings I get when I do something I know to be outside of God’s perfect will. I wonder who is watching me and into whose life I may be throwing a stumbling block out of my own misstep. We all make mistakes and like I have said over and over we are making baby steps towards our more sustainable greener life but some things just take a little dollop of discipline. I need to be more prepared to face the challenges of greener life just like I need to be prepared everyday in my spiritual life.
If we keep a few of the recycled bags in the car or spend a little time planning our trips to the store then we will not find ourselves caught out without something we need, just like if we spend a few minutes reading the Bible in the mornings we will not find ourselves caught without the spiritual armor and reinforcements we need in a sticky situation. In Sunday school we talked about how hard it is to prove to other people you are related to someone that you never talk to or know nothing about. It is the same in our Christian lives, even though God may be our spiritual father, if we know nothing about him and never talk to him people may have a hard time believing us. All it takes is a little bit of discipline and a fervent desire to kindle something more in our lives.
I want to be a better Christian, a better person and a kinder steward of the environment. I want someday to stand before God not knowing that I am saved and have entered his kingdom by the “skin of my teeth” but I want to hear “well done my good and faithful servant.” Like the struggle towards a greener life, the daily battle with clutter that gets in the way of what I really want to do and be rages on. But I am taking a moment this morning to renew my commitment to my relationship with God and my desire to take better care of the planet he has given me. So if you see me at the store loading plastic bags in my car or you see me out and you think well she’s a Christian she should not do/say/be/wear whatever please forgive me for making you doubt, I am human and I struggle daily too.
I would like to leave this blog today with a passage of scripture we shared with the kids from a translation of the Bible called Seek and Find, remember it is always easier to hear God when the lines of communication are open:
“My child, remember my teachings and instructions and obey them completely. They will help you live a long and prosperous life. Let love and loyalty always show like a necklace, and write them in your mind. God and people will like you and hold you in high esteem. With all your heart you must trust the Lord and not your own judgment. Always let Him lead you, and He will clear the road for you to follow.” Proverbs 3:1-6