Confession # 3: I’m Staging My Own “Mutiny Against Excess”…Finally!
I recently read the book 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess by Jen Hatmaker. When I say “recently” I really mean last November/December, but you understand. Now before moving on, I just feel like giving a brief shout-out to Jen. Not as if she would ever make her way to my little missionary blog, but just in case…
Girl, you are my role model! And when I grow up (Because at almost 27 I still have a hard time seeing myself as one of the big girls.) I want to be just like you. You can keep Texas though; I really like Tennessee. Our BBQ is killer.
If you don’t know anything about the book 7, Jen Hatmaker takes seven months to fast seven items: food, clothes, spending, waste, possessions, media, and stress. The purpose? Simply put, Jen kicked off her experiment praying, “Jesus, may there be less of my junk and more of You and Your kingdom” (Hatmaker, 5). In other words, Jen noticed that those seven areas mentioned above where getting in between her, God, and what He wanted her to do for others. So she fasted them, one by one, for seven months.
Anyway, the book kind of rocked my world. This is crazy, I know, because I am a missionary living in a 3rd world country. Technically I have already given up many of these things. Once upon a time I gave up my teaching job, my retirement plan, my car(s), my house, my possessions, my American Dream, and the list can go on. I gave up the options to even have good food, good media, good possessions, or good spending options years ago.
So what’s a girl like me doing reading 7 and being convicted? Good question! One that I frequently had to ask God myself while reading and one that He chose not to provide me the answer to until recently.
Before I explain, let me just tell you that today is my first official day on my mini 7 Experiment. And before you decide to call me crazy, just know that I’m not the only one. If for some reason you were to find yourself in Cap Haitien on a Saturday morning you would find a little over 10 of us missionary gals gathered together, pretending we were Jen’s own little “council” and trying to figure out what excess may still linger in our own lives- excess that may be preventing us from living, loving, and serving as we should.
Sitting in on one of our Saturday morning 7 pow-wows, well, I am not sure if you would know what to think. First off, we aren’t your stereotypical crowd. Secondly, this isn’t your standard Beth Moore Bible study. And third, our need and intentions for a “mutiny against excess” in our lives looks much, much different than our American friends. Instead of fasting lavish heaps of clothing, gross amounts of electronics, fast food, WalMart, and such, we instead have consistently discovered our need to fast the following:
Our desires for better food
We have food, plenty of food. Never do any of us go hungry. But it would be embarrassing to calculate how many hours a day we spend total thinking (lusting, literally) about the foods we can’t have. We are like teenage boys going through puberty…except the thing on our mind isn’t sex…it is food! Chick-fil-A, fresh apples, a salad bar for crying out loud! Thinking about the food we can’t have, longing for it, and realizing we can’t have it, it only makes us bitter. And that has to stop. Our love affair with obsessing over food takes up too much emotional space. Not to mention it makes our bellies way too sad.
Our longing for the things we can’t have
But it isn’t just about food, it’s about everything. We may be missionaries, but we are just like everyone else, always wanting more! It isn’t like we left our homes for Haiti and packed those desires up in boxes. Nope. Old habits die-hard. And wanting more all the time is a habit I fear the human race as a whole is in no fight to conquer. The only problem is that here, what you have is what you brought. When we want something, it isn’t as though we have the option to run down to Target to get it and fulfill our desire. No, here we don’t have the option to buy what we want. And you’d think that would be good. You’d think that would mean we would just forget about it and want less. And although for the most part that is true, sometimes the opposite happens. Sometimes, not being able to have what we want only makes us want it more…way more than we ever would have wanted it in America. Here, things have bigger emotional price tags on them. They are no longer just things. They are the things we long for. The things we really want. The things we can’t have. And things that are precious and hoarded if we ever receive them.
Our struggle of entitlement for what we already have
We live amongst the poorest of the poor, yet we all have so much. Compared to our friends back home we are poor, but compared to our friends here in Haiti we are wealthy. Take Hunter and me for example. When we moved to Haiti we took a 50% pay cut, yet we still make 7x more a year than our highest paying employee here at the orphanage and 18x more than our average employee. How to we legitimize that? We sub cautiously feel entitled to maintain our American lifestyle of course. We feel as though we need/deserve to have a vehicle even though 99% of the population around us doesn’t, Wi-Fi in our own house even though barely anybody around us has that luxury, electricity 24/7, running water, someone to wash our clothes so we don’t have to, and the list goes on. Entitlement is a scary word, especially for us Christians. Just yesterday my good friend Letitia was talking about it during our Bible study. “Money and possessions can cause us to be prideful because it makes us think we earned it, ‘I worked hard for this, and therefore I deserve it!’ But really, everything we have is because God gave it to us!” I agree with Letitia. And although I still struggle with this, (the idea that God has gifted me more than my neighbor) we can’t talk about this later…
And lastly our inner struggle to hold on tightly to all that we have left
One of my girlfriends just received a box of American junk food and didn’t want to share. A few others mentioned their limited supply of toys and clothing for their children. Another admitted her reluctance towards giving away money. Everyone chimed in. Everyone agreed. Previously called to give everything away to move to Haiti, we all now find ourselves sticking to our possessions and/or money like glue. What little we have left is ours and we don’t really feel like sharing. It isn’t that we are selfish people or anything, but if I let you use my Extra Crunchy JIF Peanut Butter, it might be six to eight months before I can buy more. So yeah, please don’t take offense if I don’t offer you a sandwich if you come over to my house.
So this, my friends, is why the missionary ladies of Cap Haitien are undergoing the 7 Experiment. It isn’t that we need to get rid of our stuff. We did that years/months ago. No, for us 7 is a way to surrender our food, clothes, spending, waste, possessions, media, and stress back to the Lord and ask Him to remove which items still weigh too heavily on our hearts. For us, we are fasting the things we still have left in order to get to straight to the matter of our hearts.
In conclusion I am going to share with you the prayer that I committed to pray everyday during my fasting. It is adapted from Isaiah 58: 6-9 and is the heart of the 7 Experiment:
This is the fast you have chosen for me in order to loosen the chains of injustice around me, to teach me to set my oppressed neighbor free, and to untie the cords and break every yoke. Please accept this fast and use it to teach me to share my food with the hungry, provide for the poor, give shelter to those who wonder, clothe the naked, and never turn away the needs of my family. For then, if I learn to do these things I know Your “light will break forth like the dawn” in my life and “Your healing will quickly appear” in my heart. My righteousness will go before me and your Glory will follow me wherever I go. And whenever I call on you, you will hear me, and You will answer me. When I cry for help You will say, “Here I am.” Father, I love, but I want to love you more. Teach me to love You more. Minimize my love for me and my stuff to make room for me to love You and my neighbors more fully.
Question: Have you read 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess by Jen Hatmaker. If yes, have you done your own version of the 7 Experiment? What did you think, what did you learn, and what did God reveal to you during your time of fasting?
Challenge: If you haven’t read the book, or if you haven’t tried the experiment for yourself, I challenge you to pick up the book, find a council, and pray for God to lead your heart where He wants it to go. He is worth it. Your stuff isn’t. I promise!
*By the way, if you were to come to my house and you were hungry, I really would offer you a PB&J sandwich. I’m not that stingy. Although I may ask you to send me some more JIF in the mail when you return home. 🙂