God Is Making A Mess Of My Life

I’m going to try to make it through this post without utterly plagiarizing Jen Hatmaker’s book, 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess.  Below is a quote from that book that keeps me up at night:

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?

Over the past several months, the Lord has really been showing me how wasteful and excessive my lifestyle is.  When I went to Cambodia, I saw how little the people there had (but how joyous and loving they were), and I was committed to accumulating less stuff and giving away the excess to those who could use it.  This year, I finally started understand Bible verses like Matthew 19:24, “Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”  I cleaned out my closet and gave away 6-7 large bags of clothing and shoes.  But, as I assimilated back into my downtown Chicago lifestyle and the norms of the world, bad habits returned.

Let me just be brutally honest for a moment – I pay a ridiculous amount each month to live in a studio apartment in an expensive neighborhood in downtown Chicago.  Despite having a closet full of clothes, and giving away bags and bags of clothes at least twice per year, I continue to buy new items even though only a fraction of what I own actually makes it into my regular wardrobe rotation.  I pay a triple digit gym membership fee every month, AND have been paying for personal training sessions because I am basically too lazy/undisciplined to make myself work out even though I am perfectly knowledgeable in this area (and also have a perfectly good gym in my apartment building that I have used only a handful of times).  I shop at Whole Foods because it is conveniently located on the first floor of my building, and despite the close proximity and convenience of said grocery store, I continually overestimate the amount of food I need to buy and end up throwing away spoiled food on a weekly basis…even as I spend money on going out to eat while I have perfectly good food at home slowly losing its viability.  I don’t bother with coupons or sales, I just buy what I want without consideration to price.

The headline of the above paragraph is that I am failing miserably at being a good steward of my resources or of appreciating all that God has given me.  I select from a myriad of food choices while people around the world may only have rice or cornmeal or beans to eat for every meal (if they even have food at all).  When I feel hungry, I can simply open my fridge or go to {insert favorite food place} while millions of people go to bed hungry each night or go days (not just minutes) without food or water.  I have clothing I’ve owned for months that’s never been worn and still has the tags attached while a woman somewhere in Africa has only one dress that she wears day in and day out until it’s in tatters.

There are only a couple of redeeming things when I take stock of how I have stewarded my God-given resources: I don’t have any debt, I am setting and at least trying to follow a budget every month, and have resumed my obedience to tithing to my church.  I also don’t own a car and I walk to wherever I am going 90% of the time.  Nonetheless, if I had to grade myself, I’d be generous in giving myself a D- in light of what the Lord says about money and possessions:

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.  But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.  Matthew 6:19-21

Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.  Luke 12:33-34

As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life.  1 Timothy 6:17-19

And he said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”  Luke 12:15

But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation. Woe to you who are full now, for you shall be hungry. Woe to you who laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep.  Luke 6:24-25

John answered, “Anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none, and anyone who has food should do the same.”  Luke 3:11

I also recommend this article on Jesus and the minimalist lifestyle.

My small group has been doing a 7 week Bible study on generosity (this week was the final week), and in Chapter 1, the author reveals that the Bible devotes twice as many verses to money as to faith and prayer combined!  Jesus has more to say about money than He does about both heaven and hell.  You sure wouldn’t think that based on the way most American Christians live their lives.

So, my big 3 wasteful areas of spending amount to: housing, clothing, and food.  What practical steps can I take?

Housing

My lease in my current building ends in January.  My church is opening some new campuses around the city of Chicago as of Easter 2016, so my plan is to move to a new neighborhood (that is less pricy/more diverse than my current one) to help with the new campus.  I am also considering, at the age of 30 and after living by myself for almost 9 years, the idea of getting a roommate (there are additional considerations besides money for this, but that’s a post for another day).

Clothing

I am on a spending hiatus when it comes to clothing for the rest of 2015.  It’s only two months, but as someone who might have a moderate addiction to ModCloth and has a problem with always needing “new” things for special occasions (such as ahem, holiday gatherings and parties), this is going to be a bit of challenge for me.  In the past, I have also dabbled in using a Capsule Wardrobe, and I think this is something worth revisiting.  I have already assembled several more bags of clothes to donate to the Salvation Army, but I could probably take another pass or two through my closet.

Food

In Jen Hatmaker’s book, she spends a month eating only 7 foods.  That seemed like a bit of a leap to me, but I did embrace the idea that less variety and a limited grocery list could help me both with manage my grocery expenses better and wasting less, while also helping me to eat healthier overall.  I decided to go with 10 foods: blueberries, beets, apples, avocado, eggs, broccoli, spinach, salmon, sweet potatoes, and almonds.  I’m on day 5 of this, and I have to say – so far so good!  I am wasting less, spending less, and feeling better.  I may swap the broccoli out for something else though – it sounds good in theory, but is less tasty in practice.  To be continued.

Let me just close with one more quote from Jen Hatmaker – this one really breaks my heart:

I wondered if the American church was like well-mannered nice talkers, sitting in a living room sipping coffee, talking about choir practice, while the world burns down outside our windows. While the richest people on earth pray to get richer, the rest of the world begs for intervention with their faces pressed to the window, watching us drink our coffee, unruffled by their suffering.

esher-poverty-in-africa

Advertisements

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Kenton k says:

    Wow. Your continued growth in Christ is inspiring and convicting. Well said.

  2. FJ says:

    Kayla, I knew all those years when I followed you, I liked you and now I understand why. You and I share the same heart. Our American lifestyle makes me crazy. I don’t like it or get it, especially when there is so much suffering EVERYWHERE. I ask myself continually, would I have the courage like Mother Theresa to pull someone dying out of the gutter and clean him up so he could have a death with love and dignity? And yet, I find myself getting wrapped up into materialism as well. It is like a sickness, the ultimate distraction from Jesus and what he is asking us to do.

    We as a family sold literally everything and moved to California in a fifth wheel camper. It was the best thing we have ever done. Since then, we are back in a home in South Dakota ( to be closer to family, dad is on liver transplant list) and we are starting to accumulate stuff and we are all miserable. I miss my camper, the simplicity of it. And isn’t it crazy, that living like that we are still living high-on-the-hog compared to much of the world?!?! Less is MORE! You go girl and I wish you the best. God is working in you and you are listening. How wonderful is that?! God bless!

    Shannon Gardner

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s