I know we have yet to start our bookclub on Jen Hatmaker’s “Interrupted”, but this is important BREAKING bookclub news…
I have spent many of my 30 years on this earth acquiring.
And then my kids came along, and things began to quickly get out of hand. Not only were my closets and private rooms overflowing with comforts and beauty, but my entire house was following suit. Shoes everywhere, buckets of Little Golden Books, a coatrack full of diaper bags, shelves of puzzles, every Disney movie every made, 12 hairbows for every color of the rainbow, and enough tiny, plastic toys to supplement McDonald’s Happy Meals for at least 2000 orders. And the clothes…
Having a fancy dress at Christmas used to be pretty simple. Now, however, I had to find 4 other outfits to match mine in hue and quality, with accessories and shoes and outerwear to match. (Because it is imperative that we get a family picture in our finery to post on facebook, yes?). The same went for fall pictures, Valentine pictures, Easter pictures, Fourth of July pictures, the first OU game, and so on and so forth until my house was (is) bursting at the seams with STUFF, most of which will be obsolete in a few months as my children continue to grow at the rate of…well, growing children. And heaven forbid that Rebekah have the same Valentine shirt in 2012 that she had in 2011.
I have slowly been becoming aware of this never-ending cycle of insatiability that both traps and burdens the consumer (me) for a couple of years now. In fact, I came very close to sitting down and weeping last Christmas after we unloaded all of our new gifts from the car. There was a veritable mountain of shiny new stuff to find hidey-holes for, and guess what? All the hidey-holes were taken. There was no room in the inn and Mrs. Gore had a major first world problem on her hands.
I was spending so much of my time putting away “things” and toys and clothes and it had become glaringly clear to me that most of my day’s work was absolutely unnecessary. If I could just find it in me, I thought, to purge our home of all the junk, I might actually have the freedom to do what I LONG to do…sit in the floor with my kids and play in a house that stays tidy enough for our current situation (i.e. 3 kids under the age of 5). But as it was, I was too busy putting away the gazillion puzzle pieces that were played with for 5 minutes and the ten thousand articles of clothing that I brought into our “haven of rest” with my own hands and the bath toys and the outdoor toys and the kitchen toys and the boxes (and boxes) of snacks and the craft supplies and the…well, you get the point.
Our possessions had become a volatile and high-maintenance machine that needed to be tended to day and night; ignore it for a moment and it would spew its innards all over our home, robbing the matriarch of her peace and joy as she shoved her children aside to make way for the beast.
And sadder still is that fact that I was bound to these things.
I have been in a two-year pickle, hating the burden of a house full of waste and junk but loving (and craving) the new waste and junk that lined the shelves of my favorite stores. My heart was saying “Wait a minute…” but my hands were too busy grabbing to give a listen.
It no longer felt comfortable to me to live the kind of life I was accustomed to, but those consumer-driven chains were (are) so tightly wrapped around me, binding up the way I see, the way I think, the way I plan. Outside of the “machine”, I don’t really know who I am or what I believe or what I’m supposed to do with my time and money and interest. I wanted to break free of whatever it was that was so thoroughly bugging me, but…I didn’t really know how to do it.
I can look back now and see how God has been working on me for a near decade, slowly sanctifying me and pulling off the blinders to this unholy and confusing lifestyle…
There was the time 12 years ago that my youth minister challenged us to let go of “the American Dream” and truly follow Jesus (and isn’t it convenient that I do distinctly remember thinking he was out of line – there wasn’t any way I was going to give up the vision of me, vacuuming my house in high heels and pearls before hosting afternoon tea with my friends).
There was the year that God threw me a major curve-ball and kept asking me to spend my “egg money” earned from cleaning my brother’s house on other people. It was so weird and so unlike me to obey, but I felt a hint of freedom that shocked me when I gave those pretties up (although I will never forget the “Doris shirtdress” that I wanted to purchase from Anthropologie for my very first Mother’s Day church service – I’m sure my missionary friends in SE Asia appreciated being able to eat, though).
There was the constant challenge of my husband who gave us a budget (that he renamed “fund” for me because it had the word “fun” in it) that he persistently cut down so we could give more to others, after we gave our tithe. Unheard of.
There was the time I told my husband “I am so glad that God gave us this house (meaning my new shiny white farmhouse)” and he replied “God didn’t give us this house, Lesley. He gave us the money and we chose to build a house with it.” Huh?…that guy is crazy. Or so I thought.
There was the time I heard Dr. Russell Moore talk about adopting his boys from a horrific orphanage in Russia and I sobbed my eyes out in front of the entire Southern Baptist Convention while pledging to sell all my possessions and save a child tomorrow.
And then there was the day right after that that I heard David Platt speak for the first time about the dangerous idol of the American Dream and I was riveted and further undone and wished I had paid more attention to my youth minister 12 years ago.
And then there was that airplane ride home the next day where I read David Platt’s book “Radical” from cover to cover with a growing sense of conviction and trepidation and horror and sadness.
And then my beloved friend, Charlotte, told me about Jen Hatmaker.
And then I became Jen Hatmaker’s friend on facebook.
And I read her book “Interrupted” and was shocked to find my story written inside.
And then I read her new book “7: an experimental mutiny against excess“…
And wow. This is it. Now I feel as if the years and the convictions and the burdens leading up to this point are coming to a head and life is about to really and truly change for Mrs. Gore, the former shoe expert of Smalltown, Oklahoma.
I know we’re starting our bookclub on Interrupted next week (and again, I urge you to read Interrupted before reading Seven), but let me just take a minute to tell you about this book that has captured my heart and my soul and my brain and my imagination.
Seven chronicles Jen Hatmaker’s struggles with the very things I have just mentioned. Her struggles were unique to her, just as mine are to me, but the root of those struggles is universal…greed, insatiability, discontentment, pride, love of money, love of prestige, love of self, and the saddest of all, a jaded and ridiculous view of the gospel of Jesus Christ by the American church that claims to “take up our cross and follow Him”…right after we spend 90% of our income on ourselves.
But unlike me, Jen doesn’t stop at the struggle and just hope that things get better. God leads her to do something so exciting and radical about it and the result is off-the-charts captivating: seven months of Jen’s life are dedicated to seven unique and challenging fasts that tackle excessive (but oh so typical) consumption…
Food. Clothes. Possessions. Media. Waste. Spending. Stress.
It goes a little something like this: Jen eats seven foods only for the first month, wears a wardrobe of seven articles of clothing for the second month, gives away seven possessions a day for the third month, abstains from seven forms of media for the fourth month, adopts seven “green” practices for the fifth month, spends money in only seven places for the sixth month, and practices seven “sacred pauses” a day for the seventh month.
It is important to note that her initial goal is not to organize her life or become a more earth-friendly person, but to repent from her excessive lifestyle and deny herself those comforts that kept her from whole-heartedly seeking the face of God and the simple (and self-sacrificing) lifestyle of Jesus.
If you are anything like me, this book will inspire you to break free of those shackles of consumerism you felt but couldn’t see. With careful research and no-nonsense dialogue, Jen illuminates, through her own personal story, the excessive lifestyles of even the most seemingly devout American Christians; her story is your story is my story is his story is her story. And true to her style, she does so with just the right amount of levity and humor, causing you to cry one minute and burst out laughing the next.
I will warn you, this awakening might hurt a little and it might hound you until no stone is left unturned – all of a sudden, you will look at your closet full of clothes, your bursting at the seams pantry, your state-of-the-art media, and your jam-packed schedule with fresh (and perhaps convicted) eyes – but at the end of the mutiny there is great freedom and joy. I can feel it. I can taste it. And I am so excited to begin my own personal mutiny against excess. It might look different than Jen’s, but that’s the beauty of Seven. It is not a guidebook to fasting or a list of objectives that will buy your freedom when done in sequential order.
Its just a brilliantly catalogued wake-up call that says “This is what God is doing in my life and it is the adventure of a lifetime. Why don’t you give it a try and see where it leads you?”
I feel quite compelled to join in.
I hope you do, too.
P.S. And so it is with great excitement that I announce that Mrs. Gore’s Bookclub will be launching an in-depth study of “7” at the completion of “Interrupted”. Hand-in-hand with one another, this experiment won’t hurt so badly, don’t you think?