Filing this in the “Be Careful What You Ask for” category…

At the beginning of the year I wrote out some personal goals/challenges for 2013, some physical, some spiritual. One in particular was to get back into a small group Bible study. I wasn’t exactly sure what kind of study and group I wanted to be part of–all female or coed? A topical study or a book of the Bible study?

So I asked God to direct me to the right study for me at this time in my life. {Cue ominous music.} A couple of weeks later, a friend who’d been in another small group with me a couple of years ago invited me to join a study that she was going to lead at our church on Wednesday nights. The study was going to be based on the book 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess by Jen Hatmaker, an author I’d heard of in passing but had never really explored. I sensed that this was the answer to my prayer and dove into the study.

Did I mention that you should be careful what you ask for?

In a nutshell, the study is based on Hatmaker’s seven-month journey of fasting from seven different areas of excess that she sensed in her and her family’s life, one area per month. The areas include food, clothing, possessions, media, waste, spending, and stress. For example, during the first month she limited herself to seven food products to eat for the entire month. During her clothing fast, she only wore seven items of clothing (not counting pajamas/underwear/socks).

Since our study is focusing on one topic per week we’re only fasting for one week at a time. We’re now in the middle of week 2 (clothing). Let me be quick to point out that there are no strict rules for these fasts; everyone’s lifestyles and schedules are different and it may not be feasible to limit ourselves to just seven clothing items, for example. Hatmaker does provide some suggested fasting alternatives but it’s really up to us to fast in whatever way we feel led.

Since I was at a work conference for most of last week and didn’t have much choice in food selection I had to adapt my food fast a bit, but I did decide to go by the book for the clothing fast. I chose seven clothing items–2 pairs of dress pants, 1 pair of jeans, 3 sweaters and a long sleeve shirt–to wear for the week. I didn’t count shoes, accessories, pajamas, underwear or workout clothes.

I’m surprised at how challenging this fast has been for me. On the one hand it’s kind of convenient to already know what I’m wearing the next few days; I tend to have one or two outfits in mind to wear to work the next day but then often change my mind based on my mood when I wake up. On the other hand, I really enjoy dressing up and putting outfits together. Even though I can change the look of this week’s limited wardrobe by choosing different accessories, I’m still missing the fun of getting to wear whatever I feel like.

It’s crazy (and humbling) to realize how much time I spend on my wardrobe and how many choices I truly have, especially when I consider how many people around the world are wearing rags or whatever they can find. I still have a few more days of this clothing fast and I’m curious as to what God’s going to teach me through it. Already Hatmaker is stepping all over my toes through this study, and I have a feeling that they’ll be bruised beyond recognition by the end of it. (Don’t let that scare you off from the study, though!)

In the meantime, let me share a passage from this week’s study that I highlighted (watch out for those toes!):

Very few spiritual leaders seem concerned over how much we spend on fashion, or the bondage we are in to public opinion, or how many of our clothes are made by the hands of children and slaves, or how fashion is a trite, insulting topic globally, or how Jesus told us to clothe the naked and quit showing favoritism to the well-heeled and clean the inside rather than spit-polish the outside. It is reduced to a moral issue, excused from being an injustice issue. (The 7 Experiment, pg. 53)

This is proving to be a very powerful, convicting study. It’s probably one I would have shied away from trying on my own. And that’s probably why God knew I needed it right now.

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