A few months ago I started telling my family about this writer and pastor’s wife from Austin and how every.single.word she wrote on her blog and books seemed to be written for exactly where I was at that moment. Plus they were in the process of adopting from Ethiopia and you know me – that is the desire of my heart. So I kinda social media stalked her. A little. After several weeks of this, my sister started calling me out and I laughingly agreed, but I kept reading and kept sending because everything I read was simultaneously revolutionary and stupid simple (so simple because it is the way Jesus taught us to live 2000 years ago but somehow is a way of life we have talked ourselves out of following).
Last night, I ordered the latest book from this author, Jen Hatmaker 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess. I read it in less than 24 hours. I have bought it for many of my friends, and recommended it to the rest. It has torn me up. I am eyeing our closets and pantry, praying and asking the Lord to show me where to give all of the stuff that has sat there since we moved here 3 years ago, but can be treasures to a family in need. I am waking Justin up quoting parts of the book and following him around proposing things like “What if we ate just on the food in our home right now for the next 30 days?” and “So how hard would it be to cut out TV for a month with a 4 and 2-year-old?”
I am changed.
7 is a journal of sorts of a series of seven experiments where the author and her husband, and in some cases their children, intentionally lived with less for 30 days to change their dependence on stuff, and leave room for God to teach them things and grow them to be more like Jesus. These were fasts, and yes, they were hard. Jesus himself fasted because sometimes discomfort is good for our souls.
If a fast doesn’t include any sacrifices, then it’s not a fast. The discomfort is where the magic happens. Life zips along, unchecked and automatic. We default to our lifestyle, enjoying our privileges tra la la, but a fast interrupts that rote trajectory. Jesus gets a fresh platform in the empty space where indulgence resided. (7, p 161)
- One month she and her husband lived on just 7 foods (different combinations each meal) for a month.
- One month they lived in only 7 pieces of clothing (not counting underwear).
- One month they intentional gave away 7 items each day (and actually in the end gave away over 4 times the initial goal). This month touched me because they tried to not only give this to anonymous donation places like Goodwill, but also to actually get to know the poor and hurting around them and minister while building relationships and meeting needs.
- One month they gave up 7 media types and rediscovered long family walks, cooking together, and nights on the porch in the absence of the noise of constant stimuli.
- One month they spent money in only 7 places.
- One month they adopted 7 green habits, including building a family garden and giving half of the produce away through an amazing gardening co-op idea. (Read this article – so cool! If anyone in the DFW area knows of something like this, please let me know).
- One month they entered into 7 intentional pauses in their day to reduce stress and they practiced actual sundown to sundown Sabbath as Jesus modeled and commanded.
I don’t know where we fit into this. I don’t know how much my practical rational thoughtful husband can take before he ships me off to live in a bungalow somewhere with my sister (who he also deems a hippy). I don’t know how our “experiments” will look or how they will change us beyond the short period we undertake them, but I pray they will drastically change the way we react and interact with the world around us. And I know that this shift will be received by people in my world with one of two reactions. Half of the people in my world will be intrigued by this idea, and maybe enter into it with us. These people have a distinct feeling we are strangers in a strange world. They already are broken for the hurting, the poor, and the orphan, and they think that the world seems to have gone a bit mad, so they try to see the world through the lens of Scripture. They feel things and then they do something about it. They inspire me with the ways they are different from the culture around them. They act like the church was designed to act. I love it.
But I also know this will be too much for some people in my world. This will place me firmly into the “extreme” camp. Some will go from wondering if I’m a hippy or involved with a cult, to flat-out believing that I have become some self-righteous freak who would be better off living in Africa or in the 1800s with Laura Ingalls. And I need to be okay with that perception. Because I know the tension I live with each day, the discomfort I feel even around Christmas when faced with the excess in our culture and in our home, and this book has defined that feeling for me and given me a plan for releasing that tension from my heart and mind. In one part of the book Jen talks to herself in 2004, and I related to that section more than she can know. In my 20s I lived in excess and competition and insecurity and somehow stuff and food and clothes was what I used to fill the empty places in my heart and define who I was. But I wasn’t fulfilled. If I could go back I would tell myself to relax, to stop buying and shopping and straining and trying so hard. I would explain the love of my Father and the rest and joy to be found in Him. I would encourage that version of me to live differently and take seriously the life of Christ.
I follow a Savior who was a revolutionary and who said and did pretty maddening things. The things He said and did that made me furious and uncomfortable in my 20s is the stuff that resonates with and comforts me today. Sabbath is serious. Family is in the body of Christ. The more we give the less attached we are to this world. This is not our home. I would, if I could, go back and encourage myself to look more like Him, and blend into this world around me less. Blending in is boring.
So at the risk of alienating many of the people who are important to me and who love me, I had to write about this book and what it is teaching me. Because I have many people in my world who are in their 20s, just starting out and defining who they are. And if I can impact even one to be thoughtful and prayerful about even the small decisions like the daily Starbucks habit (or Anthropology, or iTunes), maybe I can make a difference in how they live at 35 in their home with their kids. And many of my friends are like me, still in the defining process of life despite our age. This book cuts through the junk and gets to the real, and it’s a game changer.
Get the book. It’s funny. It’s challenging.
Get ready to be inspired.