Does that title sound romantic? Sorry. This really isn’t a romantic post.
But think about it–what do engagement rings and Christmas presents have in common, anyway?
I suppose a lot of guys pop the question around Christmas time, but that’s not what I’ve got in mind at the moment.
I am thinking about the enormous pressure that people can feel to spend too much money on engagement rings and on Christmas presents.
I know. We live in a society where for me to talk about such things is for me to risk being called a grinch or a tightwad, but I plunge ahead.
Advertising experts and, by extension, all kinds of people who have been manipulated by those experts, have been wildly successful in convincing us that we must carry enormous heaps of guilt if we do not spend ridiculous sums of money on engagement rings and on Christmas presents.
Am I describing you?
If not, that is, if you are one who has succeeded in resisting this pressure, my hat is off to you! You are definitely in a minority!
But if you struggle with twinges of guilt because you are afraid that you are not spending enough money on these things, read on!
Thinking about Engagement Rings
There are plenty of guys out there who somehow conclude that their love for their sweethearts is measured by the amount of money they spend on an engagement ring! The women have to go along, of course, because it would be heartless not to appreciate the excess spending. Some guys get a second job or max out their credit cards–just to get the most expensive ring that they can possibly afford.
And guys who resist the pressure and who buy a less expensive (but affordable) ring are often made to feel (by the advertising industry and their dupes) like real tightwads. (By way of full disclosure: My wife Vickie will confirm to you that I have often struggled with guilt for the small–but affordable!–diamond she wears on her finger.)
Here’s a thought. Ask her how important it is to her to have a huge rock on her finger. If she says it isn’t important, believe her! 99% of the time she will say she is marrying you because she loves you–not because she loves a ring. And, if you feel like you cannot believe she is telling you the truth, your relationship just isn’t where it needs to be.
Suggestion: Buy a copy of Willard Harley’s book, "His Needs Her Needs" and begin to learn how to really communicate love! Talk it over. You may find that she would much rather that the money (whatever there is of it) be spent on things that both of you agree would be far more helpful to your marriage getting off to a good start.
If she happens to be one who really does feel that the only way she can feel loved by you is for you to spend money that you don’t really have on her–rethink the engagement!
And Thinking about Christmas Presents
It is also amazing how many people spend far more money than they can afford on Christmas presents. And then, feeling guilty that they still may not have spent quite enough, just before Christmas arrives they run out to buy some more!
When our boys were young, we tried to instill in them the truth that Christmas is really not all about them getting tons of gifts. Yes, we did get them some gifts when they were young, but we didn’t worry about them getting a "complex" if they didn’t happen to get as much of a haul as some of their classmates. (By way of full disclosure: With seven boys and relatively low incomes, we could not have competed had we wanted to :))
Instead, early on, we established a family tradition that changed the primary focus of Christmas away from just getting gifts.
For many years, the focus of our Christmas has been a time when family members gather together in one room. We sing carols. We share memories. We acknowledge the events of the past year. Sometimes we cry a bit. Sometimes we laugh. We read the Christmas story together. (When Jared, our U.S. Marine, was 3 years old, we divided the Christmas story verses in the Bible into nine parts and assigned a part to each of us.) We close our family time by celebrating our Lord’s gift of Himself to us by sharing in the Lord’s Supper. It has become a deeply meaningful time for our family, and far exceeds in depth any memories of gifts received. It really is what our Christmas is all about.
This year, with finances in many families being "at risk," maybe it’s a good time for us to decide that we are going to refocus our families away from the intense selfishness, driven by the powerful social pressure.
I heard Rick Warren make a couple of great suggestions about changing our Christmas focus. You may want to try one of these.
(1) We can help our kids think about how many people there are who would love to have what we already have. Maybe we could take our kids to a shelter or to a children’s home for a visit. Maybe we could study the situation of kids in parts of the world where there is great poverty. Maybe we could help them get creative about ways of helping people who are so much less fortunate than we are.
(2) Since, after all, we are celebrating Jesus’ Birthday, maybe we could spend some time as a family discussing, "What could I, personally, give to Jesus this year?"
If you find yourself being pressured by society to spend too much money, why not just stop a moment and think about where the pressure is coming from? Be strong! Be wise! Be disciplined! Resist the pressure! Quit caring so much about what other people might think!
Engagement and Christmas can be powerful and beautiful times! But we lessen them when we are consumed with guilt because we are not spending "enough" money. Take a deep breath. Relax. Refocus. Thumb your nose at the pressure! Instead, let God fill you with His peace and joy! It’s a wonderful thing!
The following verses are actually in the Bible. In today’s high pressure "spend, spend, spend" atmosphere, it is easy for us to get disconnected from this kind of attitude.
"But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and raiment let us be therewith content." (1Ti 6:6-8)
Whoa. That’s pretty heavy stuff!
I pray that you have a wonderful marriage! and a truly meaningful Christmas!
Stay in the battle!