The 7 Experiment begins with a culmination of a deep conviction within my heart, a conversation with my best friend, and her trip to Lifeway. My prayer this year is to be more like Jesus by simplifying my life.
All month during January, I have been giving away 7 things per day. This has actually been pretty easy. You see, I have SO MUCH
CRAP STUFF that giving away 7 things per day hasn't even really been that great of a challenge. I could easily find 7-10 things to ditch every night. At this moment, I can't even remember what I have given away. My husband has been thrilled to see garbage bags going to thrift shops. This has felt pretty good, but, in the giving, I started to feel as if I missed out on a valuable treasure by having too much stuff.
I started praying, praying, praying. The following week, my husband and I took our college age small group to the Passion Conference in Atlanta. Louie Giglio was speaking during the last session and he posed a challenge: Ask God to reveal the 3 things that keep Him from using you in a mighty way in this generation. I was almost scared to ask this to God. I bowed my head and simply asked God to reveal this to me. Immediately, He revealed them, and they came as no real shock to me.
Fear, Stuff, Discipline
I wasn't surprised. I knew them deep inside. My sin and struggle is easy to mask and therefore even more deadly. Acceptable sins, if you can call them that. Except they aren't acceptable at all. They slowly eat away at your faith and your plan in a way that no one notices.
You can even appear to have it altogether, yet on the inside you're crippled with fear.
These things are true. I worry too much. I feel entitled to things I don't need. And I have WAY less discipline than the average person.
In typical God fashion, the moment I acknowledged these things and asked for help, He rushed to my side and started working things together for my good. Because He is Good. The 7 project fell in my lap, literally. I didn't even have to buy the book. Thank you, Jesus. The fear and discipline issues have been brought to the light and God is breaking them down through His word. Thank you, Jesus.
But most of all, I know that what Jesus wants is for me to simplify more.
A little peek into how my life of excess started.
My parents were poor when I was little. They worked hard to get their GEDs, bachelor degrees, and at this point they both have higher degrees and certifications. Hard work was ingrained into every fiber of my childhood. They worked hard for us. They earned every single penny and we had what they didn't all because of hard work. I am so grateful for that and for the fact that I was taught never to rely on anyone to take care of you...get a job and work. I started working at 15 and found great enjoyment in earning and spending.
Ever since I was old enough to work, if I wanted something...I would get it. This goes for cars, clothes, trips, hobbies, fabric, more fabric, crafts...the list goes on and on and on. In my mind, I had worked hard and I didn't see a problem with buying what I wanted. I remember cashing my O'Charley's check and spending every penny after I paid my bills at Express (hahaha). Simply put, I loved to spend. And then Callie came along...which was the best blessing ever...and then I transferred my love of spending on me to spending on her.
Single parenting changed my way of spending, but only because then I became a super duper bargain shopper. The truth is, I became a smarter shopper and had more than ever. That wasn't a bad thing. The bad thing was that my desire was to spend, spend, spend. I spent pennies at CVS and Walgreens, getting 200 tubes of toothpaste for me and an infant. I would cut coupons for hours to add to my shampoo and conditioner collection. At the time, I felt like I was saving us money and being savvy. But in reality, I just wanted to spend. spend. spend. Callie and I didn't need anything. We already had too much stuff to begin with. And Callie's quality of life has nothing to do on how much I spend on her.
I think, so many times, we compare our lives to others and feel as if we have to own something comparable to our peers, which is ridiculous. Anyhow, I just kept spending. Justifying my spending with things like Gymboree Gymbucks, reward points, and, all the while, with the mentality that I earned this money and I should spend it how I choose. And I continued to accumulate more and more and more. Which no one pointed out as strange behavior, because that's just a normalcy in America.
Fast forward to 5 years ahead. 5 years of stuff we didn't need. 5 years of impulse purchases for stuff I can't remember. 5 years of stuff now circulating in Goodwill.
And I get married.
When I married Matt, we didn't discuss money the way we should have. With our combined income, we had more than enough to give and live comfortably. In fact, we went out to eat anytime we wanted, traveled all over the place, and went on mini-shopping trips at least once a month. Our first year of marriage we went to Europe twice, the beach twice, and Disney. We were able to tithe and even give extra, which seemed to fill that uncomfortable uneasiness that we had to much. It's ok if you tithe and have too much right? Wrong.
I was scrolling through some news website in between classes and I saw this photo of a missionary holding a Ugandan child's hand. It wrecked me. I know this is happening in other countries, but to see it is a different story. I felt a disgust for my stuff. My extra stuff that I don't even notice is gone. Something had to change.
After the Passion Conference, I asked God, the big almighty God, to help me eliminate to excess. If I believe in You the way I think I do then I know that You are bigger than all of that stuff. You can make me fuller than all that stuff. One day in Your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere.
I started praying for a desire to be more like Jesus. This desire did not come naturally. I had to ask for a greater desire than what I had. I prayed over scripture to become more like Him and less like me. A dear friend from elementary school asked me if I had heard of 7 by Jen Hatmaker. I hadn't but I was intrigued because the book is all about ridding our lives of excess. One night while grocery shopping alone, I was telling Sarah (best friend) about the book and how I felt personally challenged to read it and participate. A few days later, she bought me a copy from Lifeway and mailed it to me. (Thanks Sarah!) I was feeling so excited and ready to embark. I opened the book and noticed that the first month was to only eat 7 different kinds of food. I almost passed out. Why? It's girl scout cookie season and I have 14 cases of cookies in my living room! And I love food. I can talk about food for hours. I am a picky eater. And I have milk and cookies every night...for the past 8 years.
Sarah said she was on board and so did my husband. It feels good knowing they are doing it with me. They are both type A, super organized, routine oriented people...so surely they can carry me through!
We are doing this exactly the way she does in the book. From February to August, we will be on this journey. I pray that in my uncomfortable moments, the Holy Spirit will flood in and fill me up. I pray that Jesus would change me and my desire to want everything. I pray that I will see how rich we are indeed. But more than anything, I pray to be a little bit more like Jesus.
The dedication in the book is my only goal in this whole experiment:
For Jesus, who lived so lightly on this earth,
He didn't even have a place to lay His head.
I want so deeply to be like you.