How many times a day do I state that I “need” something? How many times an hour? I decided to keep track and count how many times I decided that it was necessary to express a need. And how many times did those words cross my lips? Too many. And how many were even actual needs? As in basic human needs such as food and water (which we are blessed beyond measure to even have)? My husband and I are not rich, not by American standards. Sometimes we have to spend less on groceries one month because we’re paying off a doctor’s bill or we have to cut back in some areas to make room for other expenses. We don’t have a lot of extra income to go shopping anytime we want and the word budget is thrown around quite a lot. But, friends, we are so wealthy… While I am frustrated because my water won’t heat up quickly enough for my shower, I have brothers and sisters all over the world who have been thirsty for days.
About three times a week I get really overwhelmed and huff around the house, tossing things over my shoulder left and right, crying out to David “We have so much crap. I want to get rid of everything.” Usually this comes full circle with me standing in front of my closet declaring I have nothing to wear. I counted up my clothes today. I went piece by piece, tallying up the number of articles in my wardrobe. A disgusting amount, sisters. How much money have I spent on clothes in the past five years? How much time have I spent worrying about my appearance in said clothes, especially since Judah was born and I’m a little more self-conscious. All of this wasted money and energy on treasures I have consciously decided to store up on earth, just as He has commanded me not to.
I’ve been thinking a lot about contentment lately. And praying a lot also. Being content is something I have struggled with a whole lot, mostly in my adult life. I struggled (and still do) when we moved to Miami, as I’ve talked about before. I struggle to feel content in what I own or do not own. I struggle every time I walk through Anthropologie. I struggle every time I hear about something exciting that someone else “gets” to do. I struggle to find contentment in this new role of being a mother (sometimes I totally miss my old life, but nothing compares to the joy and love I feel with my son).
I know both how to have a little, and I know how to have a lot. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being content—whether well fed or hungry, whether in abundance or in need. I am able to do all things through Him who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:12-13)
Contentment is tricky, but Jesus calls us to be content in all things. In hard things. In mundane things. In joyful seasons and when those joyful seasons end. I have always wanted more; to be more, have more, experience more. But for so long the Lover of my soul has been calling me closer, reminding me that the more I seek out of life comes from Him. As I’ve been praying about and mulling over this brokenness and lack of contentment I see in myself, I came across the sweet Nancy Ray and her Contentment Challenge. I felt convicted. But did I really need a challenge to change my issues with contentment? Wouldn’t that just feel like meaningless law rather than a mission for Christ to fight my selfish nature? The Contentment Challenge is a 3 month period of no shopping. The thing is, I don’t feel like I have a problem with shopping. And to be completely honest, that is only because because my husband and I are on such a tight budget; what with having a brand new baby with brand new expenses and living life on a salary that provides perfectly for our necessary needs and not always for our unnecessary wants. My problem lies more in discontentment bred by covetousness. You see, I love Pinterest. I love Anthropologie. I love flipping through the West Elm catalog and dog-earring pages. If I can have it, I want it. And if I can’t have it, I still want it. This need to have the perfect tote, the best pair of jeans from that shop, the “it” sandals of the season- has been consuming me. This need to keep up with meaningless things has totally been my god. So maybe I do need a Contentment Challenge, maybe I need a little heart revival to refocus on Jesus and what is important to Him. I need Him to shake up my world a little and make me uncomfortable for His sake.
I felt led recently, in praying about this challenge, that I don’t just need to end this cycle of consumerism but I also need to seriously pare down my belongings. I do not need anything! He has blessed us far beyond what we deserve. So I am getting rid of things. I am ready to release, to clear up the endless piles of stuff that clutters our home, to give things away to people who genuinely need them. I also plan on getting rid of or packing away a huge portion of my wardrobe. I want to learn how to live with less so I can extend this mission beyond these 90 days.
More of Him, less of me and my stuff.
If you feel the same conviction tugging at you, I invite you to join me for three months of no shopping for unnecessary stuff. Three months of no weekly runs to Target where I leave with more than just tortillas and almond milk like I said; three months of giving up my weekly (or daily) trip to Starbucks; three months of sacrificing surfing Etsy for that perfect little piece. But be reasonable! Shop for birthday gifts for others, weekly groceries for family, or anything absolutely necessary. Be gracious and accept gifts and invitations to brunch from others, focus on them rather than the indulgence. It’s not “stuff” that breeds self-centered thinking and the need for even more stuff. This is about putting ourselves aside and digging into His purposes for us beyond what we own or can buy.
I didn’t want to write this post. I didn’t want to be held accountable if I made mistakes during these next ninety days or broke down and snuck a peak at the J. Crew newsletter and lusted over a cute pair of pants. I still don’t want to give up my flesh and have to not shop, not covet, not focus on things, not ask my husband for things when we go to the mall. But I feel like I have to. I wrestled with God on this, we talked, and I am committing myself to this challenge. I need it badly, I feel the discontentment under my skin like a disease; this disgusting need to keep up with the world. I desperately need Jesus to work this out of me.
So, here are some goals + “rules” for the next three months:
- Keep it about Jesus. Even though this is my war on excess within my home and personal life, it is even more so about focusing more on Him. Getting rid of materialistic obsessions and returning to an obsession with His goodness. Being deliberate to spend time with Him with no distractions.
- Focus more on experiences with my family. Instead of making our off days about going to the mall so I can walk through Anthropologie and “just look”, having fun as a family and trying something new like going to the Zoo like we’ve talked about doing.
- No more coveting over things I’m not buying. Meaning swearing off Pinterest (except when I need to look up a recipe), store catalogs, window shopping, Etsy, et cetera. So many times I find myself building shopping carts on Amazon or other online stores, knowing I shouldn’t hit “order”. This constant lusting is keeping me in a state of discontentment.
- Be deliberate to be more grateful. Keep a journal, actively state what I’m thankful for when I feel discontentment creeping in, just stop being so dang ungrateful when I have so much to be grateful for.
- Be intentional to not focus on my appearance. Be practical and presentable, but not overly stressed about image. I’ve realized that a lot of my self-image struggles have stemmed from being overly self-centered along with a lack of trust in Him; whether it be weight, clothing, how others see me in general. This challenge is meant to rid me of myself, if I give up shopping and self indulgent practices yet focus on my appearance even still, what sort of a self detox is that going to be?
So here we are, day one. And I am ready to wage this war against my flesh, bare down and fight discontentment. This is going to be hard. I’m probably going to fail. But I’m ready to fight for what matters and find my contentment in Christ alone.
But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world.
– 1 Timothy 6:6-7
I’d love to know who decides to join in! Please feel free to comment or send me a message so we can keep each other accountable.