Life has changed drastically in the past week and I dare say it’s taken me just as long to breathe it in really deep, stretch all the way down to my toes and prep my heart, mind, body and soul for the next two months.
Summer is here. Thank the Lord.
The arrival of these months is a welcome reprieve every year not just for the kids but for the whole fam. For the kids there’s the no school thing. For me, I have the privilege of being able to take the summer off of work and for the hubs this means that we’re all happier and less stressed when he gets home. Oh, and there’s usually cookies on the counter cooling. bonus!
These months, quite literally, rejuvenate my soul for the year that’s to come. I head out of them ready to take on the world and somewhere around February start dreaming of them once again.
We go from frenetic pace to just slowing down, man. The whole vibe changes. It’s so good.
So what did I go and do? Well, I messed with it, of course. And you know what they say about messing with a good thing? Don’t!
It started off with us being uber-spoiled. We already have one boy gone away to foreign lands but the other two got whisked away, the day after they were out of school, by their beloved grandparents who wanted to do some camping with them. Um, okay!
Then we were offered an apartment in the city (35th floor – no big) but we had to use it this weekend! So one child pretending he’s Irish, 2 gone with grandparents, you might recall that hubs has fridays off and monday was a holiday. Yes. Yes, this weekend is fine! We’ll take that apartment, thank you very much!
This is where I went wrong though. I brought along a book. Of course, if I’d have brought along The Hunger Games to reread (guilty pleasure) or some sort of fluffy summer novel I would have been fine. But no. That’s really not how I roll so I stuffed the book I had only received in the mail 4 days earlier into my bag and we were off.
The book, cause I know you want to know what you should be avoiding, is called 7 by Jen Hatmaker.
If you’ve been reading for any length of time you know I’m fascinated by culture. I watch too many documentaries. I read books about why our children are all growing up as narcissists. I love this stuff. So when I heard about this book with a subtitle of “An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess” I knew I wanted it.
I won’t rant on and on about how we are the privileged. The ones born in North America with access with anything and everything we could ever want. I won’t go on about how we abuse this every single day of our lives. I won’t delve into the fact that if we would just stop buying our water and reallocate that money we could buy it for the rest of the world and babies wouldn’t have to die. I won’t dig too deep on the fact that I have 141 articles of clothing hanging in my closet or folded in the armour (I counted and the laundry is mostly done so that number is pretty accurate) and that’s not including the 16 jackets, 26 pairs of shoes/boots or scarves, hats, belts which I assure you would probably double the above number.
Of course I justify all of the above by the statement, “It’s not as much as a LOT of people,” like that makes it okay.
We’re an excessive culture but also a blessed culture. I’m not advocating that we stop being thankful for the fact that we have shoes on our feet everyday. We should be! Praise Jesus. But 26 pairs just sitting in my closet when it is physically impossible to wear more than one at a time? Ridiculous.
So the book enticed me. How could we, as a people living in this culture that we do, say when enough is enough? Could we? Is it possible to stop giving in to the epidemic of consumerism and be content with what we have? Is it?
Ms. Hatmaker set out to discover if she could. She chose 7 areas of life (clothes, spending, waste, food, possessions, media and stress) and made major changes by either reducing the area to 7 or making 7 contributions in an area. Each month she focused on just one area so, for example, for one month she reduced the places she spends money to just 7, for one month she ate only 7 foods (literally!), and another month she integrated 7 habits for a greener life (gardening, composting, buying local, shopping thrift, etc).
It’s a high challenge and I commend her for taking it on. I also sort of hate her for taking it on because it’s messed me up. When I think about what Jesus had to say about how we ought to live I’m quite certain that our large houses for small families, our closets bursting at the seams and our landfills piled high with plastic crap that we pick up on the fly and disregard equally as quick is not what he had in mind. I’m not sure this is what it’s suppose to look like and it’s had my heart in knots since I whizzed through the book and began praying about what God wants for us here in North America.
Many contend that we have it easy here and I beg to differ. It’s hard to live here. It’s hard when we have excessive means and are trusted to steward that well. (and truly, if you live in North America, no matter if you’re a student, a family living off of one small income, or lost your job and are on income assistance – you still have excessive means simply by the fact that you live here!) It’s hard to not be envious of our neighbour and buy up the same things they have. It’s hard to not seek the approval of man, or give up our pride or live like the earth only needs to last until we’re outta here. It’s really hard!
It’s also easy to justify. I sent a text to a friend shortly after reading the book that said something along the lines of, “I don’t mean to sound arrogant but we already do a lot of this stuff!”
Sure, we recycle and I love buying second hand as much as new (thrill of the find! oh yeah!). We’re not addicted to social media and we don’t spend a ton of money cause we don’t make a ton of money. But the truth of all of this is that we’re comparing ourselves to the people right next door to us and not to the people who are living in poverty. Sure, we don’t have as large of a house as those people, but what about compared to the slums of India, or the tents lining the streets in Haiti. What about comparing ourselves to a different standard? Not even a human one. What about looking to God himself and asking what he would have for us. Because I’m pretty sure the Jesus who walked the earth with no place to lay his head, the Jesus who told the rich people to give away all they have and follow him, the God who gave us the earth to care for – well, I’m going to bet he’s not impressed with my 26 pairs of shoes. I also know that when I give an account for the life that I’ve lived, pulling a, “But my friend had like 47 pairs of shoes! Can you believe it! I’m way better than her…” isn’t going to cut it.
But this isn’t about numbers. It isn’t about 7. It isn’t about making changes just to save the earth. This is about our hearts. It’s about assessing whether we’re living in a way that is honouring to Christ. It’s about whether we’re loving our neighbour as ourself. It’s about what we’re doing with what we’ve been blessed with. Are we simply padding our pockets and filling our cupboards and closets with more? Or are we really loving our neighbour as ourself. (as ourself! Meaning, as much given to them as you give to you.)
I’m the first to admit that I have excess and that I live excessively. I don’t want it and I don’t like it and I’m pleading with Jesus to help me change. He’s the only one that can change hearts. He’s the only one that can open eyes. He’s the only one that can show us where we’ve gone wrong, forgive us for it, and reconcile us back to Him.
I’m asking God to break my heart for what breaks His as I take on this journey. I’m asking that He refocus my gaze on Him. I’m asking that there would be less of me and more of Him. Less of what I think I need and more asking, “what do they need?” I have enough. He is enough.
Change doesn’t come easy. I know for me I need a radical shift to incorporate change in my life. When talking to my husband about it we agreed that I’m an “Aim for the stars” girl but not because I feel like I’ll get to the stars but more because I know that I need to aim there to end up somewhere around the horizon. So I’m making big changes. One per month so as not to kill me immediately.
The journey is a personal one but I’ll share bits and pieces of it here. Not because I’m awesome but because Jesus is. Not because I can change the world but because He made the world and I want to live here in a way that is right and good. Not because I think you should do what I do but because I believe in community and this little place, well, it’s become a community.
So thanks for nothing, Jen Hatmaker! (I kid. You’re great!)
And here I go. An experimental mutiny against excess. A fast from excess. A radical change in some of the ways I live for the purpose of seeing more clearly a great big and radical God. I have prayed more about this than anything in a long time because I know it won’t be easy. Pray with me if you think about it? I know I’m going to need it.