Friday, June 21, 2013

        For a few years Jen Hatmaker's book Seven: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess has been on my to-read list. I heard about it and wrote down the title  near the end of 2011, put it on my list for 2012, and copied it over to my list for 2013. It never worked outthe library didn't have it, I didn't inter-library loan it, and it never seemed to fit with any of my Amazon or Barnes and Noble online purchases.

     About a month ago, I was at our local Christian bookstore browsing without the intention to buy anything, and found it on the clearance rack. Bingo.
     I knew I was supposed to buy it, after all, there it was! so I did. When I got my wisdom teeth out three weeks ago, I had lots of time to read, so I devoured Seven. I hardly put it down. I underlined in it, prayed about it, talked to other people about it (when I was well enough to finally leave the house and have meaningful conversations with people). 
After all of that, this is what I am left with:

 "What does it communicate when half the global population lives on less than $2 a day, and we can't manage a fulfilling life on twenty-five thousand times that amount? Fifty thousand times that amount? 
"It says we have too much and it is ruining us.
"It was certainly ruining me. The day I am unaware of my privileges and unmoved by my greed is the day something has to change."  

     "May my privileges continue to drive me downward to my brothers and sisters without. Greater yet, I'm tired of calling the suffering 'brothers and sisters' when I'd never allow my biological siblings to suffer likewise. That's just hypocrisy veiled in altruism. Until every human receives the dignity I so casually enjoy, I pray my heart aches with tension and my belly rumbles for injustice." 

     "Jesus' kingdom continues in the same manner it was launched; through humility, subversion, love sacrifice; through calling empty religion to reform and behaving like we believe the meek will indeed inherit the earth. We cannot carry the gospel to the poor and lowly while emulating the practices of the rich and powerful. We've been invited into a story that begins with humility and ends with glory; never the other way around. Let's align ourselves correctly, sharing in the humble ministry of Jesus, knowing that one day we'll feast at his table in splendor." 
     ~  ~  ~
     This Saturday I finished Jayber Crow, the book I started in May and was struggling to get through.  After finishing that book and Seven, there was a word building its home inside my heart, nesting there, coming to me again and again.

     After all, Seven is all about moving towards simplicity from our lifestyle of excess; Jayber Crow is about a man who ultimately lived a simple and ordinary life but lived out the struggle of his heart with regards to Christianity. 

     There was one scene in particular that stayed with me after I finished Jayber Crow. 
      As the scene unfolds, Jayber is retiring from his job as a barber and moving to live by the river. He says, "With so many on hand to help, I was embarrassed at having so little to move. Subtracting the few things I was going to leave, and the things not worth keeping that I had kept only because I was used to them and now had thrown away or burned, I really didn't have very much. There was room to spare in Elton's truck."  (301)
     This has been on my mind a lot as I think about moving to California next year. I don't want to be tied down to my things. I don't want them to manage my life. 
If I have so much stuff that my life is ordered around it, I have too much stuff. 
When I cease to be a good steward of my things, and my things start to steward me, they are too numerous.
     I think in particular about my room, and how my dresser is always buried in stuff, or my closet or drawers often messy. I am starting to realize that if I cannot keep my things neat and organized, perhaps the problem is not my organizational skills, but my things. I have too much. 
     I have clothes that I rarely wear; jewelry that I never wear; things with sentimental value that I don't take out and look at except when I deep clean, and sometimes, by the time I do that, I can't even remember why it is I held on to something in particular. I have purses I'm not going to use again and bags I've never used and am not going to. 
     Seven and Jayber Crow, as odd as it sounds, have confirmed my desire and conviction to purge my belongings before I move to Biola. I want to get rid of that which I do not need or do not use or do not wear, things I am attached to, but are out of sight, out of mind. 

     Much of this thinking happened Saturday morning and afternoon. Later that day I headed unsuspectingly to prayer group. Our verse for the night was this:  
"Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." (Matthew 6:19-22)
     Don't be anxious about what shall be provided for you, Christ says in the same conversation. Your Father sees your needs and loves you and he shall provide. Don't lay up treasure on earth, but in heaven. Seek ye first the kingdom of God, not the kingdom of the world, and all these things shall be added unto thee. Live today while it is today, and cease living today worrying about tomorrow. 

     What if I trusted Christ so much that I didn't feel the need to build up excess? What if I stopped emulating the practices of the rich and powerful and started living like my choices affect the world I live in and the people I call my "brothers and sisters in Christ"? 
     What if the church started looking different, living differently, giving up the American dream of living for tomorrow and instead living simply today? What if we ached for justice and redemption among the broken places of the world more than we desired to look good, have convenience, accumulate stuff? What if we loved our brothers and sisters in Christ like real brothers and sisters, like our biological brothers and sisters, and treated them as such? 

     This becomes a fight not only against my own tendency to acquire things, but for justice as well. It becomes a struggle to live out the compassion to which I am called.
     I struggle with the idea that many of my clothes which I purchase are made in sweatshops. My desire to look nice, be well-clothed and fashionable has, more often than not, trumped my compassion for those who suffer making the clothes. I am funding their slavery, and if I am honest, I discover that I care more about how I look than their suffering. My sweet tooth for chocolate all too often wins over the conviction that buying chocolate made on the backs of slaves is wrong. I pray that in the future, my desire for immediate gratification would not surpass my conviction against injustice. I don't want my greed, vanity and pride to dictate the way I spend my money for the remainder of my life.
                                     ~  ~  ~

     It is Sunday. We come to worship from our places of brokenness, pride, greed, self-serving and self-seeking. We sing, "You are more than enough for me" and "You are all we need"; not because we understand or have a good grasp if His sufficiency, but as a confession that we ourselves are not enough. 
We confess that we are not self-sufficient, that this world cannot satisfy or fulfill. 
     We sing, "You are holy, holy, holy", and it is a confession that we are not holy, nor are we whole, but He is the opposite of us. He is holy, holy, holy, he is entire of himself, complete in himself, fully sufficient for us. 
     And thus we pray, "May we seek first Thy Kingdom, O Christ, that you may add all this unto us." 
     and to it we add that impossible prayer: "not our will, but Thine be done." 
                                     ~  ~  ~

     Christ is sufficient. He is more than enough for us. But all too often I live my life as if I don't need only him, but need new and nice and appropriate stuff as well. Maybe more. 
     I don't want to live that way any more. I don't want to be driven by my greed and my pride, or by my possessions. I want to be running and chasing after Christ. 
     I want to seek first Christ, and let him take care of tomorrow. I want to learn both great trust and simple prudence. I want to learn to pray the impossible prayer
"Not my will, but Thine be done." 

     So be it. 

Lord, I would be all Thine. 

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