A month or so ago, my husband and I got to share a hilarious/awkward moment of working together. We were in a strategic planning meeting with our church’s pastoral leadership team. We were discussing the themes of the Advent Conspiracy and if/how we wanted to use them in our Sunday services this December. The themes of the Advent Conspiracy are to preach on four topics: Worship Fully, Spend Less, Give More, and Love All. The AC is put together in the hopes that this focus will help participants refocus Christmas on Christ, not consumerism.
In discussing who should/could preach on what topic, my wonderful husband said, “Yeah, I don’t really connect with ‘Spend Less.’” I almost spewed my mouth full o’ coffee all over the table crying out, “That’s because it’s the one you struggle with the most!” Before I’d even processed what had just happened, laughter erupted around the table, and my husband turned red and hung his head in shame. (Bum-bum-buuuuuum. #wifefail.) The other two pastors did not have the blessing of getting their wives’ live commentary on their thoughts, and both of them pretty much said, “Busted!”
After denying it, the truth won out, and a few days later, husband confessed I was right. This morning he preached on it, and it was convicting–convicting because the person preaching the message fully understands the struggle.
The challenge was to turn away something to turn toward something better, depending on where we most struggle in the struggle to spend less (to spend less time/energy/money focusing on ourselves, to spend less time/money/energy trying to meet everyone else’s needs at our own expense). Based on a story of John the Baptist in Luke 3:3-14, the takeaways were the following:
- How can I give more out of my excess?
- How can I make caring for the less fortunate more of a priority?
- Am I willing to pursue contentment with my life as it is?
Big questions. Ones we’ve been wrestling with for awhile. We have a big house. We have way too much stuff. Even as we get rid of stuff, we’re always magically acquiring more, and it feels like we never get ahead. And while we want to care a lot about people that are less fortunate, in reality, a significant chunk of money goes to maintain the big house and take care of the stuff and get new stuff and get insurance to protect all the stuff.
This is bondage. This is broken. Something needs to change. This road, in our case, is leading to lots of discontentment, because we’re tired of our stuff owning us.
It’s because of this feeling that we started reading this book this summer. 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess by Jen Hatmaker. This book should come with a warning label that says, “read me only if you want to wreck your life…in a painful and beautiful way.” I totally recommend it if you’re discontent by the piles of excess in your home, schedule, budget, DVR, etc.
So far our journey has started small. Last week, we dug through our closet sorting out nice clothes and shoes that we don’t really wear to give to homeless people in Seattle. It was hard to say goodbye to a 3 year old coat that doesn’t quite fit right, or a pair of shoes I haven’t worn much because they’re a size too big. It’s hard to say goodbye for some reason, but as soon as the silly stuff is gone, I never miss it.
We want this something small to snowball. We have a hard time taking the time to do the hard work.
The Christmas story is a good reminder to simplify. Mary and Joseph didn’t have a pack ‘n’ play or travel high chair (although I’m guessing they might have enjoyed an Ergo or some nice panniers for the donkey). Baby Jesus wasn’t brought into the world with 52 hand-crocheted baby blankets and colorful sleepers of all sizes awaiting him. And somehow he managed to save the whole world.
Husband and I still feel compelled to do what we can to change the world for the better. Repenting of our stuff and throwing a lot away is step one. In this season of acquisition, it’s even harder. But I guess repenting of the excess and seeking to give it away is my first prayer of Christmas.