Yesterday I counted the number of items of clothing I own. For the record, every girl that has ever used clothes as a cover up for a deep-seated insecurity should do this, and be prepared for a reckoning of wills. A rude awakening to a life of excess. There is something about quantifying the grotesque amount of articles, many of which reside for years at a time without being touched or even remembered, that makes the extent of our excess real and in my case, unacceptable.
Two weeks ago, I read this quote from Jen Hatmaker in her book 7. After wearing seven items of clothing for one month, she attempted the grievous task of purging her closet. What she found behind her closet doors were piles of deep emotional connections and a slew of identity issues awaiting her. She said this after reminiscing on years of life events, all experienced in the garb she saw before her.
“Clothes used to define me when my genuine identity was fuzzy. When I didn’t know who I was or what I was here for, I dressed like someone who did. I dolled up the container, but I’m learning that I’m really just a jar of clay. Because that was all I was ever supposed to be. It will be my pleasure to give these beautiful, well-crafted clothes to someone who needs them. Because I don’t need them anymore.”
This literally brought tears to my eyes. The depth of my comprehension of her words, that aligned a little too perfectly with my experience, I could never adequately express. This was me. In many ways, this is me. I’ve been there, attempting to define myself by appearance, to cover up how truly lost I was. Unsure of who I was, who I was going to be. I was insecure at the very core, but every affirmation that I looked good, helped me deny the inner turmoil, leaving it unsettled and unresolved. I was desperate to be defined and approval was only a band-aid to hide it.
But years later, I can honestly say, God has brought me further than I knew I needed to come. No longer undefined, I am defined completely, by Christ in me. And now, as I look at the mounds of clothes that have so much history from years of aiding me into believing I was worth something, I know that I am, apart from everything other than Christ.
Now, the levels of conviction are enormous. This past week I took my convictions to some dear friends. I’m pretty extreme in my nature, so I told them I was ready to sell all my possessions and go do something radical, off the map and worried only about what God would put in front of me to do. Knowing my heart and my extremism, they pledged their consistent support and their prayers without hesitation. I am blessed that God has put these voices of truth in my life. These dear sisters have each counted their closets with me and we have begun praying that God would show us specific needs, where our excess can evidence God’s love and provision to another. We are certain that God has something in mind.
As I purge, as I attempt to put feet to the convictions of my heart, I’m praying God is doing something big, and this is just the beginning. I’m discovering a great deal of difficulty distinguishing between what I need and what the invading American culture tells me I need. For example, today I put a sweatshirt in my “give” pile that I wore yesterday. Its not that I don’t like it, or that it doesn’t fit, or that I don’t wear it, but I have three sweatshirts similar in type. Do I really need three, absolutely not. Drawing this line is the battle I face, in this area and in many other areas of my life.
Here are some reminders that I am keeping at the forefront.
(the state of my need)
My needs are met fully and solely in Christ. My greatest need is deliverance from God’s wrath. This need has already been met, in the death and resurrection of Christ. Now my conviction lies in making much of him who has rescued me, not in the acquisition of anything other than His glory.
(the state of my heart)
I have too much. Entirely too much. And it is all temporary. Matthew 6:19-21 says, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” As much as my words would love to deny it, I have 367 pieces of evidence that are more than telling of the state of my heart. So above all else, my heart is what I am asking God to change.
(the state of the world)
I am praying that the Lord never ceases to remind me of the needs that are abundant around me, both near and far. I can’t help but picture the sweet bodies I hugged each day at kids camp in Svay Pak, Cambodia. Each day they came with smiles on their faces, gladness in their hearts and the same clothes on their back as the day before. And the day before that. And the day before that. One thing is for sure, I can never again claim blindness to great poverty, and great need. The level of abundance we live in, we are comfortable in, should sicken us. Even those of us that endlessly claim we don’t make enough, that our finances our constantly strained. Check the stats. I think we would quickly find that whats really strained is our desire for the things above over the things of this earth. We are strained with one foot anchored in Christ and the other anchored in the desires of the flesh.
I will leave you with this. Fervently pray and ask God what He would have you do with your excess. Ask him to show you where that excess is, I believe we all have some somewhere. God calls us to meet needs, to give generously out of the abundance he has given us.
Challenge: Go count the number of items in your closet. Do it today. Start there. Ask yourself what you truly need and ask Him what to do with what you don’t. Sell stuff and raise money for a cause or ministry you love. Give to a local ministry or organization that meets needs. Commit to not buying more. Leave a comment, tell us what you’re doing. Encourage others to do the same.
I’m excited to see what God does, with all our silly stuff, but more exciting than that, with our hearts. May we be people with a loose grip on the things of this earth and a tight grip on Jesus.