This summer as I was preparing to turn the big 3-0. I began thinking about the last decade, the things I wanted to bring into the next decade and the things I wanted to leave behind. During this time, I read two books that fundamentally shook my view of the world and my place in it. One was Jen Hatmaker’s 7, Jen spends 7 months examining the areas of excess in her life. She choose food, media, stress, possessions, waste, clothes, and spending. She then spent 30 days on each area boiling it down to seven. So for 30 days eating only seven foods, then seven articles of clothing, giving away seven things a day, eliminating seven media types, spending money in only seven places, and adopting “seven sacred pauses.”
The experiment was as crazy as it sounds, but as I turned the pages and laughed at the idea of speaking at a women’s conference for two days in the same dress. I mean come on! Anyone one who knows me knows why I think this is insane. (If you don’t know me See: high school clothes calendar where I diligently wrote down every article of clothing I wore to ensure I didn’t wear the same outfit twice in 3 weeks.)
As I laughed at her stories, God began to move in my heart. Why exactly did I have so many clothes? Why did I need four different pairs of black patent leather shoes? Why am I spending $54 on sushi? Especially, in light of the fact I wasn’t a regular tither, and barely gave any money towards the building of God’s kingdom. I had done Crown Financial classes and while they teach about the importance of tithing, it is mostly about making wise financial decisions like making a budget, saving for retirement, and paying off debts. All very important things, but I was budgeting for dinner out and Ann Taylor dresses. And still when I looked at the amount of money I was spending on myself compared to what I was spending on God or when I looked at the number of shoes I own compared with my brothers and sisters living on food stamps or on dirt floors it just seemed so horribly out of whack and selfish. I had been given so much, and I was spending so little on fighting poverty or improving educational opportunities for girls across the globe. Despite my rantings on government spending cuts to programs like SNAP and Headstart, I wasn’t doing my part. Suddenly, the stories didn’t seem so funny because God is pretty clear about our financial priorities.
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:19-21
So I went on a 30 day fast in which I gave up shopping, eating out, T.V., and social media. My own 30 for 30. At the end of the fast I celebrated my 30th birthday with most of my favorite people in the world, Mexican food, margaritas, and cupcakes! But honestly, I didn’t really feel that different. I thought I was going to have this miraculous spiritual breakthrough, but other than having an unusually large bank balance nothing really changed. (I did start tithing and allocating a specific amount of money in my budget for both faith-based and girl empowerment charities.) But, none of the clouds parting stuff you read about in the Bible and sometimes expect when God begins to move in your life.
Nothing until I read Jennie Allen’s Anything. Anything is about the things in our lives that hold us back from pursuing God with our whole hearts. It forces you to take a real hard look at the things you’ve chosen nice cars, fancy homes, cute clothes and asks if God is real, why are you chasing things that are definitely going down with the ship? I mean did God really save me to hear me pray the same prayer about a raise or a new job over and over again.
Anything is really a prayer of surrender. If God is real, will I give up everything and do anything He asks?
And then like a puzzle, everything fell into place. I needed to recognize all of things in my life that I loved more than God, and I needed to place them on the altar and light it up before I could really see God move. I had to be willing to let go of my stuff to choose His stuff and after 30 days without my stuff it was a little easier to let it go. (Notice “a little easier” I still struggle over what is the appropriate number of statement necklaces) But, I have seen God honor my surrender in big ways and small. I came back to a childhood passion. I’ve made new friends. I started this blog and a couple of weeks ago Jennie Allen herself read one of my blog posts and sent a note of encouragement via Twitter! (Gotta love technology!)
I am not sure what God is doing or where this path ultimately leads, but I do know that whatever God is doing I want to be a part of it.
I know I am not through, beyond my statement necklace struggle, choosing surrender is an everyday battle and some days I just want to get under the covers and throw up my hands and say enough! But, I honestly believe God is worth it so I keep trudging along sometimes crawling and crying but forward I must go. Forward because in the end only what God says about me matters and I really, really want to hear “well done my good and faithful servant.”
P.S. If this post resonated with you in anyway, if you too are hungry for God to move, if you believe the ship is sinking and you have been preoccupied with rearranging deck chairs then you should check out IF: Gathering. You can read more about it here, here , and here.
You can also keep up with what I am reading under On My Nightstand.