Every once in a great while, a book comes along that change the way I view my life and how I've been living it. The latest book to do that was 7 by Jen Hatmaker. Now, I'm sure the author didn't mean for her book to leave me blubbering in tears, but she took a few thoughts and emotions that I'd been battling with for a long time and put them into actual words -- a feat that I never thought could be accomplished -- and, as a result, I'm making a few positive changes, despite the difficulty in doing so.
Hatmaker basically identified 7 key areas of excess within her family's lifestyle and addressed each of those areas over a period of 7 months, drastically attempting to reduce their food, clothing, spending, media, possessions, waste, and stress. Obviously some areas were much more difficult than others, but the experiment was amazing in showing how most people in the world might live compared to how many of us live every day and just how wrong that is.
I think, as Americans, we often forget that most of the world lives in extreme poverty, without access to 15 pairs of shoes in their closet, an overflowing pantry, and e-readers and iPads. Hatmaker's writing is incredibly eye-opening, not just as a reminder of the blessings we have, but also as to what is really wrong with the way many of us think and feel we are "entitled" to for working hard every day.
I've been committed to reducing our "excess" for the few months after reading The Hole in Our Gospel by Richard Stearns. I've been slowing reducing the amount of clothing in my closet and extra "stuff" I've been holding onto for years, convinced that it will be of use at some point. Donating those things to people in need felt great, but what was more important was the weight I felt lifted after getting rid of the mindset that I need tangible items to feel happy. Hatmaker helps to expand upon that thought by explaining why God is where our focus should be and not on the extra. The people with nothing should be our focus rather than trying to figure out where to take our next vacation or whether we should get an e-reader in addition to our iPad.
She also talks about the power of the churches we attend and how that coincides with our feelings on excess. This topic was the most heart-stopping to me out of the entire book. Since living here, we've attended a church that we really like, but have never fallen in love with and I could never pinpoint exactly why. When people would ask us what we loved about our church, I often only had one answer: "the worship music is AMAZING." While great worship music is all well and good, there should be a deeper answer and we are absolutely not getting that where we currently are.
Hatmaker talks about the concept of a "barefoot" church and now Aaron and I are once again on the search for a new place with that very concept in mind. I want a barefoot church, free of excess, focusing on the right things and one that "gets the point" as Hatmaker says. It's very emotional to move on after all this time, but I'm so very thankful to the author for finally opening my eyes to what was wrong with our thinking and our actions.
Even if you are not a Christian and aren't looking for a big spiritual revelation, I highly recommend picking up this book. It gives excellent tips on reducing excess in these 7 key areas and I cannot say enough how good it feels to do some of these things.