As many of you know, a month ago I started a 7 month fast. Myself, along with 4 other women are going through this fast together as we read through Jen Hatmaker's book, "7: an experimental mutiny against excess."
The first month was a fast from food. I shared glimpses of what that looked like through my Instagram (You can find more details on this experiment here).
A week ago, we finished month 1. Let me tell you guys, I believe that will be the hardest month of them all. Living on only 7 foods for 4 weeks was grueling. But, wow, how refreshing and eye opening it was as well. I learned how little I depend on God to satisfy my needs, to comfort my aching heart, to fill my life with joy, and rather turn to food in those times instead.
Where I thought I had a decent prayer life, I was quickly shown how much I had used food as a distraction.
This may sound silly, but food was my gateway to distraction. I found myself coming home after a bad day and just wanting to eat ice cream, when I obviously couldn't have ice cream, I'd turn to Netflix, when I got bored of Netflix, I'd pull out my phone and scroll through social media.
Why spend time with my Heavenly Father when I'm bored, when I can instead eat a chocolate cake?
Don't get me wrong, cake is great. But God is so much better and in a sense, I was placing the "cake"a.k.a. foodin general, above Jesus. Also, don't think just because I did a food fast that I have this incredible prayer life and go straight to God every time now. Nope, not always.
Am I doing better though? You bet! I'm much more aware now than I ever was before about how I treated food in relation to how I treat God. Adjusting back to sugar and more variety, I still struggle with the temptations of food being a distraction, but I'm working on it.
To end month one, we celebrated with a delicious breakfast of pancakes, sausage, bacon, cereal, coffee and allllllllllll the fruit, as we joined together and discussed how God had been revealing Himself to us through that month.
Was that month easy? By no means. Worth it? Absolutely!
So here we are at Month 2: Clothes.
Underwear doesn't count.
Robes don't count.
Shoes are one category with two pairs.
No jewlery (aside from a wedding ring).
Swimsuits don't count.
After picking out my 6 pieces of clothing,the 7th item being my shoes,I was curious what I would think about this month. I love cute clothes; patterns, florals, stripes and we can't forget, accessories. Honestly, accessories is my downfall, I love to accessorize; purses, earrings, belts, give me alllllllll of it!
So week one has passed and let me just say, I am loving this! For the most part, at least. In all reality, being a stay at home mom 3 days out of the week plays to my advantage in this month because lets be real, I stay pretty bare on those days as I lounge around my house with my baby girl. Also, since I work at a camp, the two of the days I do have to wear clothing, I wear jeans and the designated camp shirt.
Don't get me wrong though, one week in and I already miss all of my cute summer dresses, my sandals with the tassels, my braided belts, the dangly earrings... all much more stylish than my black nike shorts, gray shirt and tennis shoes. Which I've worn basically every other day aside from Sunday, Monday and Wednesday. In its own way though, it's been kind of liberating. As I was thinking about this month today, the word simplejust kept coming to mind. How simpleit is to have only a couple outfits to choose from when getting ready, how simpleit is to only have to wash a small amount of clothes vs. numerous outfits.
At the same time, I have felt absolutely horrible looking in my closet and seeing items that still have tags on them or have never even been worn, having been hanging there for who knows how long (I'm talking at least 2 years or longer), knowing there are people out there who only have the clothes on their back, if that.
My heart hurts, not only for myself, but for our country. We are constantly being bombarded with all the latest trends, being told they are "must haves." And that if you don't have this must have item, then you are a nobody; your opinion doesn't matter, your personality isn't enough, your skills aren't valued. I'm seeing how often I buy into these lies,literally buyingthings for the sake of buying, not the sake of needing.
How simple life would be if I didn't allow excess.
Isn't that what Jesus was all about? Simplicity.
We hear the phrase "the simple gospel" often, at least I have. Today those words really resonated with me. This life truly is about the simple gospel. Jesus came to this earth in one of the lowliest of ways, a King born in a barn full of filthy animals. He lived a simple life;even His miracles were simple.
In Luke 5, we see some of Jesus's simple living. As Jesus begins His calling of the disciples, we see how He approaches them and interacts in the most plain ways.
3 He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little from shore. Then he sat down and taught the people from the boat.4 When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.” 5 Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.” 6 When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break.7 So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink. 8 When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!”9 For he and all his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken,10 and so were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, Simon’s partners. Then Jesus said to Simon, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will fish for people.” 11 So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him. — Luke 5:3-11
Jesus saw a boat, hopped in and told him to go fish. Fishing. That's how Jesus called Simon to be His disciple. Simon's response? He didn't even think twice. He literally dropped his life and chose to follow Christ right then, right there. In that same chapter, Jesus heals a leper and a paralyzed man.
"12 While Jesus was in one of the towns, a man came along who was covered with leprosy.[b]When he saw Jesus, he fell with his face to the ground and begged him, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.” 13 Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,”he said. “Be clean!”And immediately the leprosy left him. 14 Then Jesus ordered him, “Don’t tell anyone, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer the sacrifices that Moses commanded for your cleansing, as a testimony to them.” 15 Yet the news about him spread all the more, so that crowds of people came to hear him and to be healed of their sicknesses.16 But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed." — Luke 5:12-16
Jesus didn't announce His miracle. He didn't ask for the people to gather around and watch what He was about to do. He didn't have tricks up his sleeves or props. He spoke two words; "Be clean!" Just like that, He healed a man of a terrible disease, but even more so, He gave a man new life, eternal life. In this same simple manner, after a group of friends bring their paralyzed friend to Jesus (lowering Him through a roof, directly in front of Jesus, man what incredibly devoted friends!) Jesus doesn't pull out a wand, He doesn't massage the man's legs, He simply tells the man,
"Friend, your sins are forgiven...I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home." — Luke 5:20,24
And that is exactly what the man did. You know the crazy thing? Even though Jesus didn't use fancy ways to attract people, the people still flocked to Him.
How cool is that?
My favorite part of this chapter is when Jesus calls Levi as a disciple. I can't even attempt to paraphrase this one because the bible puts it so plainly, it literally couldn't be more simple!
27 After this, Jesus went out and saw a tax collector by the name of Levi sitting at his tax booth. “Follow me,”Jesus said to him,28 and Levi got up, left everything and followed him. — Luke 5:27,28
I wish I could say that had I been there during that time and Jesus approached me, that I would have immediately chosen to follow Him, no questions asked, but the hard truth is, I'm not sure that I would have. Conviction has already gripped me one week into this month as I read through this chapter and saw my selfish, materialistic desires try to plead out of this and say,"But what about my clothes, do I have to leave those? Can't I take this with me, Jesus?"I fear that would have been my response had Jesus approached me back then.
If you haven't heard the song Simple Gospel by United Pursuit, you should give it a listen. I mentioned the word "simple" had come to mind with this month. Immediately following, was this song playing over and over in my mind.
Coincidence? More like God making sure I got the message loud and clear.
The Gospel is simple:
A Heavenly Father sent His only Son, a man named Jesus, both equally man and equally God, to live the simplest of lives and to show love to every person He met in the simplest of ways. He died a simple, but brutal death, as nails pierced His hands, a pure and innocent Jesus, sinless and full of love, was crucified. In a situation where He could choose to say no,He chose you.He chose me. He chose to show the greatest act of love, sacrifice. The Healer who performed simple miracles with the most sinful of people through the most simple words, was buried in a tomb, just as anyone else, but rose back to life 3 days later, not making a grand entrance with fireworks or balloons, but simply walking out of the tomb and going to His people to share the Good News, the gift of eternal life; that if we trust in Him and ask for forgiveness, we will be a new creation, a child of God, redeemed, loved, a receiver of the greatest gift ever given.
And that is why, as the song goes, I will rejoice in the simple gospel, I will rejoice in you, Lord. The truth is, we can try to fancy up Christianity all we want; we can build extravagant buildings, have lots of decor, colorful lights, good food, fun events, and none of those are bad things to have, unless we allow them to be. But if we cloud the Gospel by turning these things that can be used for Kingdom work into distractions, if we muddy up the love of Christ and the Gospelis no longer a simple love letter, but a book of legalistic rules or a lot of glitz and glamour, then we have missed the whole story.
That is what excess does; it complicates, it clutters, it creates chaos.
I pray that as I continue this month, God will also continue to make known the excess in my life and to help me remember the simpleness of His love. Who knew you could learn so much from your wardrobe? Jen summed it up best with this comment in her book,
"We have this one life to offer; there is no second chance, no Plan B for the Good News. We get one shot at living to expand the Kingdom, fighting for justice. We'll stand before Jesus once, and none of our luxuries will accompany us. We'll have one moment to say, 'This is how I lived.'" — Jen Hatmaker, 7: an experimental mutiny against excess (p.105)