We are rich. There really is no way around it. By every definition of the word, we are rich. We own two houses and 4 cars. We go on nice vacations, eat out often and buy anything we want at the grocery store. We give to a number of organizations, including our church, and have been able to save for college and retirement. We live in a safe community with wonderful schools. Our kids have had every advantage that money can buy. I am grateful for the Lord’s provision and my husband’s hard work.
Last month, I read a book called 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess by Jen Hatmaker. As I told my friends on Facebook, it rocked my world. You should read the book to really understand, but essentially Jen and to some degree her family looked at their life of relative wealth and decided to dig a little deeper. To do that, she looked at some of the excess in her life of affluence and decided to do an intentional “fast” in 7 different areas: food, clothing, possessions, media, waste, spending, and stress. She fasted for a month in each area and wrote about her experience and what God taught her in the process. In the study guide that she published later, she suggests a week long “fast” in each area for those who were intrigued enough by her experience to go deeper themselves. That is what my friends and I are going to do for Lent.
FYI, my family thinks I’m crazy.
Let’s take a detour for a minute and talk about what a fast is. One definition I read was “fasting is an intentional reduction, a deliberate abstinence to summon God’s movement in our lives. A fast creates margin for God to move.” Another definition said “it is exchanging the needs of the physical body for those of the spiritual.” God talks about His ideas of fasting in Isaiah 58. When Jesus brings it up, He says “when you fast,” making the assumption that we will be doing so.
SO, we begin this week, as Lent officially begins on Wednesday. This week, we examine our relationship with food. In the book, Jen picked 7 foods that she would eat exclusively for one month. Our group decided that each of us would decide for ourselves what our “fast” would look like this week.
Back to my wealthy lifestyle. We have loads of food in our house. Pantry is full. 2 freezers are full. One refrigerator full, the other partly full. We buy food that we end up throwing away because it goes bad. I have thrown out things in my pantry that were 2 years past the expiration date. Some evenings, I look in the refrigerator, don’t feel like thinking/cooking and go out for fast food instead. I don’t actually know what a gallon of milk costs anymore because I know I can afford it. We are privileged that we have never for one day known what it feels like to go hungry
But the abundance, and the opportunity for excess, is internal as well as external. Like most of us, I often eat when I’m not hungry. I indulge a passing craving, the bag of chips catches my eye, Steve leaves a bag of candy on the counter (clearly, that one is his fault.) A handful of this, a spoonful of that…many times eating that has little to do with the real purpose of food which includes, in my opinion, nourishing our body and living and celebrating in community. My relationship with food may be symptomatic of a deeper condition that plagues our culture: I want, what I want, when I want it.
I read this scripture this morning from 1 Peter 4: 2 (The Message:)
Think of your sufferings as a weaning from the old sinful habit of always expecting to get your own way. Then you’ll be able to live out your days free to pursue what God wants instead of being tyrannized by what you want.
For me, much of the excess in my life, in all the areas mentioned, is based in that “old sinful habit” of expecting to get my own way. I want what I want now- so I buy, eat, listen to, watch, sign up for, do- what I want now.
Don’t get me wrong. The food or other stuff we buy or do is not in and of itself the problem. The problem lies in the priority, power and purpose it has in my life. I am often overwhelmed by the clutter…of things, choices, possessions, information overload…with which I am inundated every day.
How can I hear God’s voice amidst the noise?
I’ve thought about this food fast all weekend while I was in New York with a group of kids eating out every meal. With two daughters watching, I have been very careful about never getting legalistic about food. Food is one of life’s great pleasures and I believe God meant for us to enjoy it….every holy day He established included feasts after all! Food is for nourishment certainly, but sharing meals is often the setting where we celebrate our time with the ones we love most. On our trip this weekend, it was during the meals that I got to really get to know the people with whom I was traveling. Food is a blessing and I want my fast to reflect that. For that reason, my fast this week will be about trying to put food back into its proper place. For this week, I will only eat nourishing foods, no snacking, no grazing. I will eat slowly, in a chair, only at meal time, and when possible, with other people. No sugar, no junk food, no fast food. In addition, I will clean out the pantry and the freezers with all the excess stuff and either cook it or take it to the food pantry.