What Now? My Synopsis of the 7 Experiment

9:14 AMHeather

Yesterday was our last get together for The 7 Experiment, the 9 week Bible study that is an off shoot of Jen Hatmaker's original book, 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess.  In case you're joining me now and missed the previous blog posts, this book is about shaking off and cutting back and simplifying and realizing the excess we allow in our lives that gets in the way of pure religion.  It's basically about denouncing the American dream of having more and materialism and consumerism and embracing the call of Jesus to care for the poor and the needy and to do with less so that we can give more.  

Pretty radical stuff.  Swimming upstream.  Counter cultural.  And honestly--counter even to much of the American Christian culture, as well.  

My head is pretty much swimming with this little 9 week journey I've been on with fasting in different ways from clothes, food, spending, waste, possessions, media and stress.   I feel as though a little spark has been lit.  It's exciting and challenging and a tad bit overwhelming.  Because the question remains.  

What now?

The answer is that I don't know.  I love how Jen wraps up the last chapter to talk about this study as the training for a race we are intended to run.  This study isn't "the thing."  It's the preparation for the thing.  The cause that ignites our passion.  And the way to live differently so that we are meeting Christ's mandate to fight injustice and care for the needy.   In other words, we're just getting started.  

So, what now?

Again, as I've blogged before, I don't know.  But today, I hope to encourage you and inspire you with what I do know.  

I know that we have more than enough.  I know that we live in a society that accumulates while much of the world struggles to survive.  I know now that I duck my head in the sand and do nothing because I can only do a little.  And that is a travesty.  Because no matter my bank account or my talents or my time, I have something to give.  I have something others are in need of--and that is myself.  I know that now that my eyes are open, I can no longer plead that ignorance is bliss.  It's not.  It's just ignorance.  

Here are a few highlights of what I've learned through these 9 weeks.  These are my current take-aways.  A short list, I'm sure, to the ongoing work within me. 

1.  After "clean eating" for a week, with a pared down and healthy diet, I cannot return to my old eating habits.  Oh, I've tried.  And I'm completely grossed out.  So, I'm making some permanent changes in order to eat more fruits and vegetables and lean meats and nearly no carbs.  I'm being more diligent about reducing sugar and processed food and junk.  I don't know that you can call me an all out health nut.  But, I think it's safe to say you can call me a healthier nut!   I want to take better care of this temple God made.  And that also includes a commitment to fitness. 

2.  Paring down my clothes to 5 items for one week taught me something.  I try to dress to impress.  And that's ridiculous.  Because man's approval is a never a winning battle.  I need to make some major adjustments to my idea of "needs" versus "wants."  Oh, and HEY!  What I save in buying more clothes, I could actually donate to things such as orphan care or other needs that come my way.  "A generous person will prosper.  He who refreshes others will himself be refreshed."  Proverbs 11:25

3.  I battled with my possessions for a week.  The challenge I set for myself was to get rid of 7 items a day, conquering 7 rooms in my house.  Um, far exceeded that amount.  I mean, by FAR.  As in thousands more items GONE.  And I don't even miss them.  Which made me blush to realize just how much I have expended energy and time to purchase things that quickly lose their usefulness and appeal.  How fickle am I?  To spare my future self, I just want to be smarter and more intentional about what I buy, lest I continue to find myself in this crazy first world cycle of being an consumer, accumulating, and then needing to purge.  

4.  My media fast week didn't go quite so well.  I forced myself to cut WAY back on Facebook, falling just short of eliminating it.  I cut out Pinterest.  I cut way back on television, and I used my lap top only as necessary for blogging and bills.  But, I was rather hit and miss.  Then, my life sorta ramped up in some crazy twists and turns that left no time for things like screen time.  And now, I'm not so married to it.  I'm finding myself spending my evenings with a book rather than television.  When I do watch TV, I try to turn it on to watch something specific rather than just passing time.  (Which, by the way, I have WAY more of when I don't waste it on media).  At this point, I think I'm cutting the cord on media, carefully watching for when I feel a compulsion to check my phone or such.  And then, trying to resist it.    As I heard someone else say recently, I didn't realize how little I would miss television until I quit watching it so much.

5.  Um, sorry Jen Hatmaker--but waste week was sorta wasted on me.  I'm all in for the idea of being more careful to be green and more mindful of our responsiblity to this creation God made for us.  But, I don't garden.  So composting wouldn't really help me much.  Although I'd gladly have someone come plant a garden for me and I could probably take it from there.  Does a little science experiment for my third grader about composting count?  Because that assignment came home during this week--interestingly enough.  I recycle, and I tried to be much more mindful about doing that diligently and to not be wasteful with food or trash or heavily packaged items.  Honestly, this week sorta was a disconnect for me.  But then again, it came the week that we had a family death, so maybe my head just wasn't in the game?

6.  I loved and hated spending week.  I had a list of 7 places where we could spend our money, which did NOT include any restaurants.  So, we had the grocery store, the gas station, the kids' schools, online bill pay, Lowes (for some home projects we had that week), Target (for emergencies only--which we didn't use), and nationals for collegiate volleyball so we could go see our "Canadian son" play for Baylor.   I was a little caught off guard with how many times I stopped a buying impulse because I had drawn my line in the sand.  There was even a trip to a mall in there to help someone else shop.  And I resisted!  I felt like I deserved a gold medal.  The really cool thing was that at the end of the week, I didn't feel that I'd been deprived.  I felt I'd been wise.  Instead of eating out, we had friends over for lunch after church--so fun.  I even had some cash to send to someone going on a big mission trip.  That was pretty cool.  To realize just how much I could actually save in a week without hardly feeling it.  Knowing that even this small amount could make a difference to someone.

7.  The last "fast" of the 7 Experiment was stress.  Which for me, meant I was trying to take deliberate pauses in my day to pray or connect with my family, including really taking a Sabbath on Sunday with no tasks and nothing but rest and worship.  Um.  Again, I'd say this week ranked up there with waste.  Not sure I managed it well.  I did think more about pausing, although I did not always take the time I wanted to actually do so in each day.  I intended to Sabbath, but ended up working together with my family to prepare to host other people that night.  But, still, I do think I was more contemplative about how much I allow my schedule to run me rather than vice versa.  Sometimes, it just can't all be erased when you have three children.  But, my attitude within the busy can certainly be adjusted when I give myself time to stay grounded in the Word and prayer, and I rest in His faithful care.  Some days, my "stress" fast simply meant taking a deep breath in the middle of it all.  To remind myself that the frenzy didn't have to take me over.  And God has it all under control.  I can cast my cares on Him because He cares for me.

Listen, here's the thing.  I feel the grip on all these areas of my life loosening.  I find myself working to release the hold that these things have on me.  I am motivated, as never before, to really explore how I'm living out the bottom line of Christ's ministry.  Love.  How am I loving Him?  Am I caring for my body and his earth and his people?  How am I loving others?  How am I responding to the needs that intersect my life every single day?  Am I watchful so that I can say a kind word to the frazzled cashier?  Am I ready to respond with a yes anytime I can to someone in need?  Am I unplugged enough from all the stuff and things and distractions in this world so that I don't miss the still small voice of my Savior?  

Oh, I want to be.  More than ever.  

If you think sometimes that there must be more, I agree.  Sometimes, we have to be willing to do the hard work to do with less so that we can discover the more that is waiting.  

I'll end my little synopsis with this quote from Jen Hatmaker from the first chapter of The 7 Experiment. 

If Jesus is serious, then far more than fearing poverty or discomfort, we should worry about our prosperity.  It is the kryptonite of true discipleship, according to Jesus.

I'm coming to thirst and hunger ever more for the truly abundant life He promises.  An abundance of peace and joy and fulfillment that comes when we lay ourselves aside and answer His call to just follow.  Wherever it leads.  To be His hands and feet.  

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