[Part one of a series blogging about this book]
It’s been just over two weeks since I finished Jen Hatmaker’s book 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess. I bought it and read it on a whim, nearly all in one weekend. I heard about it from Nicole Unice who’s starting a discussion of it over on her blog (which you should follow when it starts…).
Why I felt compelled to absorb this book, I cannot tell you.
Lately, I’ve been noticing a hard-heartedness in myself when it comes to messages encouraging sacrifice or simple living. When the preacher I’ve downloaded off iTunes even thinks about going there – I mentally slap his comments away. My knee-jerk response has been, “I moved to a third world country, Mr-Mega-Church-Pastor. Do NOT lecture me on sacrificial obedience.”
More on my obvious issues in a minute…
I confessed these thoughts to a friend, who wrote back about the “one more” principle. That having left quite a few homey comforts, it’s hard to think about shedding one more. He is spot on.
I have somehow decided what I have given up is enough. That I have reached the limits of what God expects me to shed, give up, cast off. I’d fallen for the myth of all attempts at religion via legalism. The myth that I can do enough to earn the right not to have to do any more. It’s why I can be called on the “one more” principle. It’s the myth embedded in the calls to sacrificial obedience that pastors make from pulpits – and I’ve heard way too many of these – that include a sentiment like, “It’s not like you’re being called to go to a foreign country or something”.
Except what if you are? What if you have gone to a foreign country? Does that mean you have a corner on sanctification-through-sacrifice-of-comfort? That nothing further will be required? That’s the message I was hearing…
Which is probably why I notice that along with my mental plugging of ears there is also anger, and a tiny sense of betrayal. Because for years, I bought into the myth of a limit. And I’ve now done what was held up as the pinnacle of complete surrender. But not only have I found that these sacrifices did not result in a more instant, less winding journey to sanctification – I have discovered that on the other side of the world, there are just as many time-wasters, distraction-providers, and comforts calling to replace the ones I gave up. Was I really expecting the adventure into another country to be the direct (or at least easier) path to sainthood?
But if what we’re about is indeed knowing God instead of following a system of satisfying “the man” through rules and reaching finish lines of “enough” – then our attempts at knowing an unlimited God cannot contain limits. We will never be done in the trading off of little parts of ourselves to gain a clearer understanding of Him. This has nothing to do with how much we think we should sacrifice but with how much of Him there is to know.
This is why Hatmaker’s book disarmed me. At the very beginning – in the Introduction – she admits to this being a part of her very un-perfect journey. She quickly reviews how God had already upended her & her family’s life by calling them out of lucrative big-church pastoring into work with a church plant with a tiny budget focused on the poor, down-and-out, and homeless. They’d given up all that and then she discovers there’s “one more” thing that God’s calling her to focus in on.
She’s not going to write about how she found the right, “Christian” limits for spending, eating and media intake.
She’s not going to show how you too can be biblical in your habits by meeting these man-made benchmarks of commitment.
She’s going to tell you about her own personal journey into letting go of a few “one more things” in order to meet God in a new and different way. In her words –she was on a quest to “create space for God’s kingdom to break through”. Her prayer at the beginning is, “Jesus, may there be less of me and my junk and more of You and Your kingdom”.
How could I disagree with that?
Reading her journey reminded me it is not – and should never have been – about some sort of standard life with finish lines of extreme sacrifices made to reach a defined goal of dedication. It’s about making less space for me and more space to know Jesus.
And that there will always be more of Him to know.