I’m going to attempt to finish my synopsis of the Bible study 7 by Jen Hatmaker with this post, so hang in there. It could get a little scattered and hard to follow as I trudge through the areas of Waste, Spending, and Stress. Here goes…
First, the area of Waste. This includes recycling, conservation, gardening, composting, buying local foods. Basically, just taking care of the earth and the environment. In the study, Jen mentioned that she had always thought of this area as something only liberal, tree-hugging hippies cared about and “why should I care so much about the earth?” I have to admit that I’ve always felt the same way. Why should I recycle? Why should I care about how much gasoline our family uses as we drive all over town every day? Why? Because God instructs us to take care of this earth that He created, that’s why. “We can not fully worship the Creator while at the same time destroy His creation.” Whoa! No one should care more about the earth than believers.
So, for this particular week, we decided to recycle. Everything. I also tried not to run a million errands every day, thus hopefully conserving a little gasoline. And we were careful about conserving energy throughout our house, turning out lights when we weren’t using them. I started using reusable grocery bags instead of coming home with a million plastic bags. And yes, I realize I’m a little late to the party with all of this but don’t judge me. I’m working on it.
Here is the take-away from this week: I realized that we are stealing much-needed resources from poverty-stricken countries (and from our children and grand-children) when we throw our plastic water bottles and sandwich baggies into landfills. What will happen to the beautiful earth with all its natural resources if we don’t take care of it the way God intended? And a bonus that I wasn’t expecting – Peter and I have become recycle crazies. We inspect everything to see if it can be recycled. Our recycle bin is full and our trash can is almost empty. It’s amazing how much less trash you have when you recycle…
Spending Week, however, didn’t go down as well as Recycle Week. In the original experiment, Jen and her family spent money in only 7 venues for a month because they realized just how much money they blow through and waste. She suggested that we take a look at our bank statements to see how many different places we spend our money each month (not including charitable donations like church, World Vision, Compassion, etc). So I went though the previous three months in my checkbook and was dumbfounded by what I discovered. I’m embarrassed to say that we spent our money in an average of 64 different places every month. What?!?
What if we quit buying things on impulse? What if we stopped running to Chick Fil A twice a week for milkshakes (Peter!)? What if we downsized so our rent wouldn’t be astronomical? Our focus should be on others, not on ourselves. We need to watch what we spend so that we can be better stewards and so we can help those who are less fortunate in our community and around the world. We must give generously and sacrificially to the poor. Scripture commands it. “Give from what is within to the poor, and everything is clean for you.” (Luke 11:41) If we live radical, simpler lives, we wouldn’t have all the distractions that money brings. We would be happier, more content, because we would be living as Jesus commanded.
The final week was Stress Week. The focus was rest, honoring the Sabbath, spending time with the Lord, and saying no to the busyness of life. God created the Sabbath for us out of love. It was created for rest and rejuvenation. But to be honest, between gathering diaper bags, trying to get to church on time, dropping babies in the nursery, and lunchtime chaos, most Sundays don’t feel very restful. And frankly, I’m not exactly sure how to change that at this particular season in our lives.
One thing Jen mentioned, though, was that we don’t need to sign our kids up for every activity under the sun. We, as Americans, tend to run ourselves ragged shuttling kids to music lessons, ball games, dance, play dates, etc. But for what? Are we sacrificing times of rest? Are we so stressed by all the busyness that we’re short-tempered with our children? Are all these activities worth it? Honestly, this isn’t something our family struggles with right now, but I know once our little ones get older, I will struggle with saying no to certain activities. And we will be busy with three children. For now, though, I’m going to cherish our quiet evenings at home.
I’d like to end by mentioning one lesson learned from each of the 7 areas.
Food: Our bodies are holy temples of the Living God. We, as a family, will strive to eat more “real” foods so that we do not destroy these temples.
Clothing: Nobody cares how many items of clothing I have. I don’t want the “plunder from the poor” to be found in my house so I’ll be very careful about buying clothing and I’ll continue to give our unused clothes away.
Possessions: I gave away 129 items to a few different ministries in town. And I’m still working to clean out our attic. I want others to benefit from the things I don’t need, so I will continue to downsize. And I will do my best not to buy unnecessary things on impulse.
Media: We may create some screen-free time for our family. The main takeaway is that I want to spend actual quality time with my family and open our home to others. I don’t want my kids to remember me as a mom who could never look them in the eyes when they talked because I was always looking at my phone.
Waste: We will continue to recycle. And next year, we’ll be planting a garden and (maybe) composting.
Spending: We will stop spending so much of our money on ourselves and instead use our resources to help the impoverished.
Stress: We will continue to guard our time as a family and will attempt to focus more on the Lord’s purposes for us.
Whew! I feel like I’ve learned so much about myself and about ministering to others through this study. If you haven’t read the book, I highly recommend it! It has been the answer to my prayer for a kingdom passion and a way to serve.