Camels and Needles

I have one remaining chapter in Seven, by Jen Hatmaker. Finn’s down for a nap, Joey’s at work, Seinfeld’s playing in the background and Jersey is snoring like a fat old man. So now’s a good time to blog about it.

If you haven’t read Seven, well, you should. Here’s the basic premise: Jen and her husband (and sometimes even her children) took seven months for an “experimental mutiny against excess.” Each month they focused on an area of their lives they want to allow more space for God and less space for consumerism, overabundance and selfishness.

Glucose testing reading material.

Glucose testing reading material. Third trimester thrills.

The months were:

1) Food (They only ate seven foods the entire month.)

2) Clothes (Only wore seven pieces of clothing.)

3) Possessions (Gave away seven items a day for the month.)

4) Media (They shut off seven sources of media/technology.)

5) Waste (Committed to seven habits for a greener lifestyle.)

6) Spending (They only spent money in seven places all month.)

7) Stress (Practiced seven “sacred pauses”–stopped to pray seven times a day.)

This book is so convicting. God will speak through Jen’s words–if you’re listening.

Her experiences challenged my cushy, white American middle-class Protestant lifestyle. Sometimes I have the audacity to think Joey and I are poor; the gall to feel sorry for myself that we are on a tight budget. It’s safe to say we make the least money of all our friends, and I work for wealthy (albeit generous and fantastic) clients, so sometimes our simple lifestyle feels meager comparatively.

“If your family income is $10,000 a year, you are wealthier than 84 percent of the world. If it’s $50,000 or more a year, you make more than 99 percent of the world.” (Hovde, 2012)

I’m rich. Filthy stinkin’ rich. Until reading this book, I read the scripture that says:

“Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” (Matthew 19:24)

…as a warning for someone else. Someone wealthy–certainly not for me.

But I am that “rich person.”

I have a master’s degree, a 3 bedroom home, a well-fed dog, a child and one on the way, a job, a lawn, a walk-in closet full of branded clothing, two cars, four bikes, camping/rock climbing equipment worth thousands of dollars, a shameful Lululemon addiction…

It’s difficult for wealthy people like me to find time and capacity for God in our comfortable, air-conditioned lives. The pangs of intense hunger don’t keep me up at night. I don’t wash my child’s clothes in the stream of sewer water outside my hut. I do more feasting than fasting.

Doesn't miss a meal.

Doesn’t miss a meal.

As I said, the Lord has been convicting me of personal excess and selfishness as I turn the pages of Seven. Mostly my heart has been aching to give; to purge my home and heart of what I don’t need and give it to people who do. (See post: Fasting and Filling)

I need to know more needy people. This was easy when Joey was a community minister. Needs were everywhere–it was overwhelming sometimes. I’ve struggled this month to find people who need what I want to give. This should not be. I’ve been praying for the Lord to reveal more specific needs around me. I’m really good at blessing the blessed. Serving the saved. They smile and say “thank you.” They often smell better and they return the favor.

Joey and a few saintly college boys finished de-popcorning our ceilings last Friday. (I would like to punch in the nose whomever invented popcorn ceilings.) photo 2Finn and I went to physical therapy and picked up donuts for the boys on our way home. A man and what appeared to be his daughter walked in behind us. Her hair was terribly disheveled and ratty. She had to have worn that violet shirt all week long. Little girl pressed her smudged face to the glass of pastries with fervent hunger. My heart knew–the Holy Spirit’s unmistakable prompting. I should buy their meal.

But then I got practical, as most of us sensible American Christians do.

What if I embarrass the dad in front of all these people in line? The lady at the counter can barely speak English anyway, so how will she understand that I’d like to put his order on my bill? Donuts are cheap; he can surely afford them. See, he has cash.

Ugh. I failed the test. I asked the Lord to show me people in need. I believe he did just that in Gourmet Donuts. But I explained away their need and I did not pay.

This morning, however, the Lord gave me another chance to give and I’m happy to say I did not ignore Him. I did not find excuses. He prompted me to bless and I did. It was thrilling.

Thanks, Jen, for attempting something so brave: to challenge Christians to live out the gospel instead of merely learning about it. It’s uncomfortable and messy, but isn’t that what Jesus was all about? This camel wants to find the Kingdom.

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