Have you ever read a book that shakes your world? Causes you to re-consider your values, priorities and way of life? Convicts, encourages and motivates you to change?
I just read “7“, and the book did just that in my life.
Jen Hatmaker wrote the honest, funny, thought-provoking book “7” as a diary of her seven months of considering and changing her normal life style. She temporarily exchanged her routine comfort and excess for seven months of reduction, sacrifice and the constant tension that awareness of reality brings. Each of her monthly challenges caused me to question my life and reflect on the “lies” I tell myself:
1. I’m hungry.
Jen chose to eat just seven foods for a whole month… no condiments, no chips and salsa, no desserts… no coffee!!
Although I have implemented a “life-style change” of healthier eating, I still rarely eat because I am actually hungry. Instead I eat for all the wrong reasons – I eat when I am bored, when I’m stressed, and because others are eating. I eat too much, and I eat foods that are not good for me. “7” encouraged me to make better dietary choices. Many people do not even have food to eat each day. I have so many options; I don’t want to abuse that blessing.
2. I have nothing to wear.
Jen wore the same seven items of clothing for a month. She also gave away unnecessary clothes. Jen writes, “These pretty clothes gave me confidence when I was terrified and uncertain.” Also, “Clothes used to define me when my genuine identity was fuzzy.”¹
When I say I have nothing to wear, the problem is usually not too-tight jeans, out-of-style shirts or other-season jackets. The struggle is often internal rather than external. I have way too many choices… I just haven’t found that something to make me feel secure, capable, and attractive. This book has challenged me to focus more on strengthening my character and less on filling my closet.
3. I need that.
Jen gave away seven items every day. (Clothing counted as only one item, since children’s outgrown and adults’ never-worn added up too quickly and easily.)
When we did our own moving purge, I realized that I am a “just in case” consumer. I buy for every possible scenario, every future guest, every potential project. Piles, storage boxes, and collections prove my obsession. “7” has reminded me that “Maturity deciphers need from want, wisdom from foolishness. Growing up means curbing appetites…”² I need to grow up.
4. Gotta check Facebook.
Month four was a seven media fast (except for a few necessary uses). No Facebook, Twitter, blogs, Pinterest, TV, video games, or YouTube. The Hatmakers found time for books, walks, cooking together, crafts and projects.
Life will go on… even if I don’t check Facebook each day. When I say I don’t have time for important, good-for-me activities, the truth is that I have the time… I just spend it elsewhere. I am convicted to control my media time and not allow it to control me.
5. Recycling is too much work.
Jen and her family implemented seven habits for a greener life during week five: gardening, composting, conserving, recycling, driving one car, shopping thrift, and buying local.
Jen wrote, “If we acknowledged the sacredness of creation, I suspect it would alter the way we treated it.”4 Irregardless of ecological arguments, I know there are many ways that I can better care for the earth. It will take more discipline than sacrifice, more attitude than effort. I want to be a good steward.
6. I can’t afford to save.
Choosing to shop at only seven places was the 6th month challenge.
Moderating spending and re-directing savings to others is very counter-cultural. Personally I make few large purchases, but I can nickle and dime a budget to death. Many times my spending is linked to socializing, but consumerism does not equal community or connection. With a little adjustment, I can be more creative with my hospitality and more generous with my giving.
7. I don’t have time to rest.
Jen claims this was her most difficult month, combating stress with seven pauses each day and a Sabbath day each week.
Busyness is powerful. There are distractions, temptations and needs everywhere. On the other hand, rest is essential for continued focus, energy and health. I wrote a prior post about some of the ways I try to rest.
Jen asks very good questions in the book, and I am now asking… What gives me my value and identity? Where do I struggle with approval, appearance, recognition, control? Am I aware of my abundance and concerned about other’s needs?
I will make changes in my life because of this book, and I will live with greater tension, constantly evaluating my beliefs and choices.
Do you tell yourself lies? How do you search for truth?
¹ Hatmaker, Jen (2011-12-19). 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess (p. 72). B&H Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
² ibid (p. 94)
³ ibid (p. 136)