I’m a practical Midwestern girl, born to a certified public accountant. I save ketchup packets from fast food restaurants, plan vacations using credit card points, and never exchange gifts with my husband for special occasions. He and I have gone through many seasons of living on a shoestring budget, which is how I became an expert at this sort of simplicity.
For a long time, I thought my practical way of living amounted to very good, godly behavior. And I still believe simplicity is a very good, godly characteristic. But simplicity taken to an extreme creates a focus on scarcity that I started to internalize.
A few years ago I was at a meeting with a group of InterVarsity staff who all felt that God was calling us to make our lifestyles a witness to him in this world. So we sat and listened to God for a bit, asking him what that would look like. When I was the only one who heard God say “celebration,” I knew his message was for me and not the group.
After moving states twice, having two kids, and putting my husband and myself through graduate school, I had, I realized, become pragmatic to a fault. I lived every part of my life in light of the scarcity of my resources, the overwhelming expense of graduate school, and the lack of time to work full-time jobs. But when I heard that word “celebration” from God, I began to ask him what he meant and why.
It seemed fairly obvious once I began to think about it. Celebration is part of the Christian life. Jesus went to a wedding and provided fine wine (John 2:1-11). The woman with the alabaster jar poured her perfume over Jesus’ feet in extravagant love (Luke 7:36-38). The Communion table celebrates our unity and the forgiveness available in the body and blood of Jesus. Weddings and baptisms are celebratory events in the life of the church family. Easter is the penultimate celebration of the Christian faith—a declaration that resurrection is possible. And we all wait for the ultimate and unending celebration of our faith—the return of Jesus, his complete rule and reign over his kingdom, and endless worship and service to our God in diverse community.
When I saw how evident the theme of celebration should be in the Christian life, I had to stop and ponder where this theme showed up in my own life. But, sadly, I had to admit that I was living one important spiritual discipline (simplicity) and completely ignoring another (celebration). Even worse, this lack of spiritual equilibrium led me to an ungodly posture. I believed I could not celebrate because I believed I lived in scarcity.
Thankfully, that’s not true. In Psalm 50:10-12, the Lord tells his people that he owns the cattle on a thousand hills and that the world and its fullness belong to him. In other words, every material thing on this earth belongs to our God. Therefore, if I’m living with a scarcity mentality, I’m not trusting God. This does not mean that I will always have extra money to spend. What it does mean for Christians, though, is that even when our wallets are empty, we are overflowing with riches from Jesus Christ who has given us joy, peace, victory, and hope. We are rich with the Holy Spirit. We are rich with blessings from above.
So here is what I have learned. Live simply. Live intentionally. Live on a budget. And . . . live a life of celebration.
Celebration, however, is not about expensive events or gifts. Celebration is a posture in your heart that you can share with others in your community. So throw a party, give a hug, do a happy dance, sing out in worship, treat a friend after her promotion, and celebrate that anniversary or birthday. My husband and I have had the chance in just the past few years to celebrate some exciting events—graduations, promotions, passing big tests, our kids’ birthdays, and even the baptism of my seventy-one-year-old father-in-law.
I’m so glad God awakened my heart to the spiritual discipline of celebration so that I would stop holding scarcity in my heart. The most memorable celebrations have become signposts of God’s goodness in my life! If we fail to celebrate, we miss these markers in our lives and probably in our community as well.
Lisa Liou has served with InterVarsity on campuses in Michigan, Illinois, and California since 2002. In her current role, she serves as co–area director of the InterVarsity Graduate and Faculty Ministries team in Southern California.