I started on my reading list a couple of weeks ago, and have already finished two books. Wahoo! I just finished reading 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess, by Jen Hatmaker. I could not put it down.
I think this book was written just for me. It spoke to my heart on so many levels.
Although she never saw herself as rich, the author, after being referred to in that manner by an underpriveleged child, decided to fight against the mounting disease of overindulgence and materialism by eliminating excess from her life. She identified seven areas of surplus (food, clothing, waste, spending, possessions, media, and stress), and devoted 30 days to simplifying each one of those areas, bringing everything back to the number 7.
During the month devoted to food, she only ate seven different types of food all month-long. During clothing month, she only wore seven articles of clothing…and on down the line, addressing a new area each month for a total of seven months.
Her social experiment was spiritual in nature. She approached it as a fast – an intentional reduction in order to create space for God to speak and move in her life.
For those of you who are accustomed to fasting, you know that it is not easy, but it does provide a unique measure of mental and spiritual clarity. Our church encourages a voluntarily 24-hour fast on the first Sunday of every month, which our family participates in on a monthly basis. Although we do not always go for the full 24 hours, we are well acquainted with the spiritual benefits of drawing closer to God by abstaining from food and water for a time. I’m telling you…the spiritual blessings are real.
While I don’t know about only eating seven different foods for a month or cutting my closet down to seven items, to say that this book was inspiring would be an understatement. It was engaging, funny and real, but also deeply moving, which explains why I could not put it down.
It made me think about excess and spirituality in a whole new light. Really, it created a connection between those two things that did not exist in my mind before. It made me wonder what I am holding on to that is keeping me from fully embracing and living the gospel (because we all have something that fits into that category), and whether or not I would be willing to give it up in order to deepen my conversion and more consistently behave like a disciple of Christ.
If Christ is our ultimate example and, as Christians, we strive to pattern our lives after His (which we do), what kind of life did He live?
He lived simply and deliberately. He paid attention to people. He lifted their burdens, healed them, and taught them a gospel of love. He traveled through crowds, but ministered to individuals – leaving the ninety and nine to find the one who needed help. He showed them how to live by exemplifying a life full of love, compassion, courage, and unwavering strength.
In Matthew 16:24, Jesus tells his disciples:
If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.
Hmmm…deny himself of what? Of stuff that takes his (or her) attention away from Christ and from others? Of distractions? Of excess? Of overindulgence? Of sin?
Take up his cross.
Be willing to do anything for Christ’s sake.
Deny yourself, be willing, then follow the Savior’s lead into a life of simplicity and purpose. A life of service. A life of love. A life of courage and strength, despite opposition.
Do we follow Him into that place, or do we get distracted by our to-do lists, our busyness, and our comfortable lives? Do we tell ourselves that we do not have time to serve, to lift and to rescue those who are suffering, rationalizing that there is little we can do in the overall scheme of things, or that other people have it covered? Are we among the few who consistently volunteer to help when a need arises (because it usually is the same few)?
While I do try, I will be the first to admit that I need to work harder to wholeheartedly follow the Savior rather than just talking about doing it like it is a good (albeit sometimes inconvenient) idea. I need to back up my beliefs with real action.
That is where this book spoke to me.
I started reading with a void in my heart that I could not put my finger on. I walked away knowing that I felt unfulfilled because I was spending a whole lot of time thinking and not nearly enough time doing. And let’s be honest…I was wasting many precious hours on insignificant things (Ahem…social media). I felt an internal fire like I have rarely felt before to DO something big, meaningful and life-changing.
At this point, I’m not sure exactly what big project or experience is beckoning to me. My mind is a flurry of ideas and possibilities that cannot seem to settle on one avenue just yet. In an attempt to figure it out, I have made this question the subject of many prayers:
What is God’s plan for my life right now, and what am I willing to give up in order to create more space to orchestrate His will?
I have a feeling that it will involve my focus word for this year, stand.
I feel the winds of change blowing, and I am prepared to go wherever they lead. Stay tuned.
In the meantime, go to Amazon this very minute and purchase this book for yourself. (Unless you are reading this on Sunday and prefer to wait until tomorrow.) If you are anything like me, it will make you feel like your voice matters – like you can do something to make a difference.
Join me, friends, on this journey. It is going to be a wild and meaningful ride.