I am very proud of my thrift-store finds. Boys need athletic clothes. I head to the thrift stores and come home with several brands and styles of athletic clothes. In the last few trips I've snagged brands like Nike, Reebok, Fila, Champion, Adidas, And1, etc. Madison needs some modest shorts. I head to the thrift stores and come home with her favorite brands that I would never pay full price for. The kids are happy and my budget is not blown and that makes me happy. But just because I pay $2 or $3 for these items doesn't mean that we are immune to having excess.
When I see the overflowing dressers and no where for the mounds of clean laundry to go, I realize we have too much. So what if it's only $2, does my 9 yr old really need a dozen pair of athletic shorts? (Even though he does wear them 90% of the time and he's a stinky boy that requires clean ones before getting in my van) My point is that even though I'm not spending a lot of money on the items, I'm still guilty of having excess....lots and lots of excess!! It's not about the money...it's about the time required to keep up with the excess and the time focused on getting the excess items. The small amounts of money that over time adds up
I was perfectly content with what I considered to be just the basic necessities of life until I visited a third world country. When I saw the children wearing American hand me downs that were too big or too small, stained and ripped my mind started thinking about all of the clothes my kids had in their dressers & closets at home. No there weren't closets full of new clothes but there were closets full of clean clothes that fit my children appropriately. As I thought about how much we had, I began to realize that while we may be poor by American standards we are extremely wealthy by the world's standards.
We have every basic human need met but we are always on the lookout for more. Why? Why are we never satisfied with what we currently own? Why do my children need enough outfits for a month when they only wear 1/2 of them? Why do we need the latest gadgets when the ones we currently own still work fine? Why do we need the bigger house, the new car, and the expensive vacation to bring us happiness? I think we have been fooled into thinking that we're not valuable if we don't have just the right stuff. We place our identity in our position and our possessions instead of in Christ.
I know....I know there's nothing wrong with having money or having things it's what you do with those things that's important. So what exactly are you doing with your money? How much do you spend on fast food? on entertainment? on the excess of life? How much do you spend on feeding the hungry? clothing the poor? ministering to the homeless? taking the gospel to the unreached?
What's wrong with downsizing, living simpler and living with less? What would happen if we lived on 50% of what we made and used the other 50% to "love our neighbor"? What if we took Jesus' command seriously and went without a few extras so someone else could have life saving clean drinking water or food or shelter? After my first visit to Nicaragua in 2011, I began removing the excess, but I just focused on surface stuff and didn't really get serious about why I had so much excess. My second visit in 2012 removed another layer and I got rid of more stuff. I also began to spend less and give more. I've been in this holding pattern for a couple of months, knowing that something needed to change in the way I live every day. I want to make a global impact and not just be a consumer. Enter my friend Laura.
Laura began sharing how her and her husband were searching for ways to completely change how they did church and what it looks like to radically serve God. She shared that she had been reading the book "7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess by Jen Hatmaker and that it was "rocking her world" as she knew it. I decided I needed to read this book.
After the first chapter, I couldn't stop reading. This woman's journey to "less" spoke deeply to my spirit. Her writing is real and personal. She shares how her heart changed through each month of living on less. Right from the beginning she explains the issue with our American desire for more. "Excess has impaired perspective in America; we are the richest people on earth, praying to get richer. We’re tangled in unmanageable debt while feeding the machine, because we feel entitled to more. What does it communicate when half the global population lives on less than $ 2 a day, and we can’t manage a fulfilling life on twenty-five thousand times that amount? Fifty thousand times that amount? It says we have too much, and it is ruining us." We are being ruined by our excess. We are addicted to the material things of this world. We constantly have to have more and more and more. So how do we break our addiction to stuff? We have to allow " God to change our trajectory". We have to be open to His divine interventions in our lives that change how we do things. "A genuine study of the Word results in believers who feed poor people and open
up their guest rooms; they’re adopting and sharing, mentoring and intervening." When we allow God to lead we'll spend more time meeting the needs of others outside our family and less time building our own kingdom.
That's what I want. I want less of me and more of Him. How can I fill my life and my home to overflowing with excess stuff while there are children sleeping in the streets around the world, teen girls being trafficked, mothers watching their babies die from starvation, fathers unable to feed their families and millions of people who become ill or die because they don't have clean drinking water? I don't need another piece of clothing or gadget to clutter my home, but there are families who need shelter from the harsh elements. My kids don't need a new backpack when last year's is still in great condition but there are kids who need basic school supplies. My kids don't need the latest gaming system when the 3 we have work perfectly but there are kids whose only gift ever is an Operation Child Shoebox. We don't need another jacket or sweatshirt when we all have several from last year that still fit but there are babies in orphanages who need blankets. How can I be a follower of Christ and not follow His command to love my neighbor?
I'm not sure what happens next in my own journey. But like Jen Hatmaker "I’ll continue to reduce and simplify, fight and engage until I know what else to do. What I know now is this: less. I don’t need to have the most, be the best, or reach the top. It is okay to pursue a life marked by obscurity and simplicity. It doesn’t matter what I own or how I’m perceived." What matters to me is following God's call to less of me and more of Him. That may mean that I will embark on my own journey to less. Only God knows what that will look like.
How about you? Are you addicted to excess? Are you ready to be ok with less? I encourage you to read "7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess" for yourself. Just be ready to have your world rocked!!
I am a Christian, a wife, a mom, a VBS crafter, a coupon clipper, a thrift store shopper, a football fan, a cook, a student of the Bible and an avid reader.