I can so I should?
Upon the recommendation of a dear new friend I read the book “Seven” by Jen Hatmaker over the summer. It was a well written, fast read but it cut to the heart of issues that most of us could stand to ponder a bit. While one could get hung up on the blatant and seemingly extreme wealth of the author (and the fact she is a pastor’s wife), the reality is that she really put herself on the line sharing the (very nitty gritty) details of God transforming her heart and life. And in the process the lives of her friends and church were also gravely impacted – no doubt that is awesome.
Jen goes through seven areas where the average American lives in great excess. The areas she deals with are clothes, shopping, waste, food, stress, media and possessions. The way she pares things down is in limiting each to seven things one month at a time for seven consecutive months. It’s downright funny sometimes and others times a little bit nauseating simply because the reality of how many shirts are in HER closet makes me think how many are in MY closet and do I really want to think about that? Maybe.
One pervasive thought that came to the surface over the summer was the “I can” so “I should” mentality. I don’t like it. I don’t want to even think that way. But it seems to come out of no where. It is crazy hard to live in a country where affluence and comfort reign (even among those who would say they have a tight budget). The reality of our American lifestyle compared with nearly the rest of the world is that it’s seeped in a relentless pursuit of more. Usually the ‘more’ is beyond our means and put on credit.
Even for us personally, living free from revolving consumer debt (by simple dedication to living WITHIN our current means – a radically weird thought) and living a simple life on many levels, there is still room for the “I can so I should” train of thought. With the holidays on the way I am trying hard to keep asking myself if the can must translate into the doing/buying/whatever…the big question I am asking though is this:
If I say no to ______, then is there something more meaningful or more helpful that I can invest my time, energy, resources and heart into.
This question has been translating itself out in my life before I could actually verbalize it. The result of it is thinking longer, harder about where any extra goes. Not at all just financially but every sort. Extra heart energy. Extra food. Extra words at the end of the day to write into a card. Extra time. Now you might be thinking if you know me that there couldn’t possibly be ANY extra in my life that is brimming with life. On the contrary my friends, the mysterious thing that happens to a life poured out for Jesus and for people is somehow there is always enough. I feel like I’m a living, breathing example of the loaves and fishes, but in person-form not food!
There is no explanation for that other than me asking and Him giving. He loves that. He loves to meet my needs and even exceed them so I can bring dinner to someone on short notice, write a letter to a friend, spend extra minutes on my knees for something I know deeply matters to God’s heart, lay on the floor to build something with a little person or set a lovely table that I know my husband will enjoy. Little things yes. And of course there are things that don’t make the cut on my daily list of “I hope to….” – you might be appalled to know how long its been since I mopped my kitchen floor. But isn’t it marvelous how the small things of the heart are actually the big things of life?
If you haven’t asked yourself lately if all your ‘can do’ things are the ‘should do’ things that are meant to fill your life up….try it. Might be a powerful thing to think about before we are thrust into the throws of the holiday season!