About a year ago I stumbled across a book that I really only wanted to read to see what all the fuss was about. Some of the blogs I read had talked about it and it seemed like a neat concept, so I would try it out. Little did I know, that book would open my eyes to a world out there that I knew existed, but didn’t KNOW about. It would bring me to a point where I yearned for simplicity. For less of me and more of God.
“7”, by Jen Hatmaker took me on a journey into the world of, well, lots of things. Jen may have written the book as an experimental mutiny against excess, but many other issues were brought to the forefront of my heart. The Amazon.com description of the book sums up the experiment nicely:
“7 is the true story of how Jen (along with her husband and her children to varying degrees) took seven months, identified seven areas of excess, and made seven simple choices to fight back against the modern-day diseases of greed, materialism, and overindulgence. Food. Clothes. Spending. Media. Possessions. Waste. Stress. They would spend thirty days on each topic, boiling it down to the number seven. Only eat seven foods, wear seven articles of clothing, and spend money in seven places. Eliminate use of seven media types, give away seven things each day for one month, adopt seven green habits, and observe ‘seven sacred pauses.'”
As a reader, we walked with Jen and her family through the experiment and the revelations she received from God by “fasting” in these areas. That was all fine with me, but I don’t think God had me pick up the book for that reason…He had other things to show me.
Each chapter I read introduced a new world to me.
“How can I be socially responsible if unaware that I reside in the top percentage of wealth in the world? (You probably do too: Make $35,000 a year? Top 4 percent. $50,000? Top 1 percent.) Excess has impaired perspective in America; we are the richest people on earth, praying to get richer. We’re tangled in unmanageable debt while feeding the machine, because we feel entitled to more. 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.”
Wow! How much? $2/day? Ok, let’s tuck that away and not really think about that.
But then in the clothes chapter…
“This is hard to process, so it helps to imagine standing in front of the families of my Ethiopian children, who were too poor and sick to raise their own beloved babies. As I gaze upon their hopelessness, I imagine them calculating what I’ve spent on clothing alone, realizing that same amount would’ve kept their family fed and healthy for thirty years.”
She really just went there. Ok, this book is getting up in my business a little more and becoming more uncomfortable with each chapter.
But as I read further, I could hear God speaking to my heart so clearly. He was opening my eyes to the poor and underpriviledged. He was showing me how much I have and how little most of the world has.
My heart would beat faster when I would read things like:
“I’m going to bed tonight grateful for warmth, an advantage so expected it barely registers. (…) I won’t defile my blessings by imagining that I deserve them. Until every human receives the dignity I casually enjoy, I pray my heart aches with tension and my belly rumbles for injustice.”
“Sometimes the best way to bring good news to the poor is to bring actual good news to the poor. It appears a good way to bring relief to the oppressed is to bring real relief to the oppressed. It’s almost like Jesus meant what He said. When you’re desperate, usually the best news you can receive is food, water, shelter. These provisions communicate God’s presence infinitely more than a tract or Christian performance in the local park. They convey, ‘God loves you so dearly, He sent people to your rescue.’ ”
God really used Jen to open my eyes to the poor around me. He allowed me to see that I am rich and it is hindering me from the calling He has on my life.
“I am pierced by Gandhi’s astute observation: ‘I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.’ Would Jesus overindulge on garbage food while climbing out of a debt hole from buying things He couldn’t afford to keep up with neighbors He couldn’t impress? In so many ways I am the opposite of Jesus’ lifestyle. This keeps me up at night. I can’t have authentic communion with Him while mired in the trappings He begged me to avoid.”
So, in other words, I was beginning to ask myself if I am truly representing Jesus to those around me. Did I say I was a Christian and attend all the church services I could without focusing on the poor-whom Jesus made it a point to serve while He walked the earth?
Jen and Jesus wrecked my world with 7. I am thankful for it. It opened my eyes to the injustices around me. It showed me who God wanted me to be. It showed me what He wanted our family to look like. It showed me the people I was to serve and love and live alongside.
I had the great opportunity to meet Jen last week. She was speaking at a very small luncheon in Raleigh and I was able to tell her how her book impacted me. How her obedience to God changed my life. Isn’t that what it’s all about? When we are obedient it is supposed to have a ripple effect and cause someone else to want to take that step of faith and follow Him more closely. It was a privilege to be able to meet her and share with her.
Thank you Jesus for 7.