Last week, we invited you to ask Jen Hatmaker any questions that you have about her book, 7. She answered several of your questions below!
How have you and your family maintained the habits formed during the course of “7″? Are there some changes that were just not realistic to maintain, are there others that have stuck and are totally worth committing to?
Great question, and several people asked a version of it. So many 7 habits morphed into lifestyle. Obviously, 7 was done in the spirit of a fast, and a fast is never permanent, but it does pave the way for permanent elements. Food for us has remained reformed. (Except when it isn’t.) I shop and buy and cook primarily with whole foods, usually organic. I can never think about food the same. It has been almost three years, and I’ve barely replaced any clothes I gave away. (Not true for my kids, but we’ve heavily leaned on hand-me-downs and thrift as they mutantly outgrow everything constantly.) Spending and possessions have been deeply affected by 7; my brain refuses complacency here anymore. It’s like a light switched on, and now I can’t freaking turn it off. And we are still FULL recyclers, gardeners, composters, Flex-fuelers, and conservers. I am most frustrated with the lack of permanent reforms with media consumption and stress. These two areas slip into entropy so easily. The practice of rest and the discipline of being present remain extremely difficult, and for that I grieve. I even know what to do, but I choose not to. Typing that out is renewing my resolve this very second.
There is a popular speaker that uses great steward principles to get people out of debt and build wealth. Although, he stresses to give once you get to that step, I have been trying to wrap my brain around that concept. I read about how Katie Davis doesn’t worry about her ‘retirement fund’ 🙂 or Francis Chan talks about how treating his possessions like ‘the game of hot potato’ and I am trying to wrap my brain out this idea of wealth building. I believe sometimes we (personally) have been called to give sacrificial…Do you have any thoughts on this?
This is a difficult subject, and one that will alienate someone any way I answer it, so I’ll just try to be honest and gracious. On one hand, there is simply wisdom in living debt-free, within our means, simply, and with a cushion. I fully affirm these tenets of this approach. On the other hand, I find the hoarding of wealth, “live like no one else now so you can live like no one else later,” challenged by the gospel. Jesus told “The Parable of the Rich Fool” about a man who amassed so much surplus, that he tore down his old barns to build bigger ones to hold all the grain he couldn’t even consume. He told himself, “Take life easy; eat, drink, and be merry!” (Luke 12). To this, Jesus rebuked his foolishness. With such a global disparity in wealth, I’m not sure the rich hoarding their riches is a prophetic response to the kingdom. Our dollars are powerful; they can help the extremely poor find footing on the bottom rung of the economic ladder. Am I okay turning a blind eye to extreme poverty so my life can be more secure and extravagant than it already is? At the end of my life, what story did God tell with the wealth He entrusted me with? What I cannot do is discern this for anyone else, nor do I want to. I have enough hypocrisy in my own life to address before I can possibly make commentary on anyone else.
As a writer and after your experiences with the adoptions and this recent trip to Haiti is there anything you would add to the book? Or that you would re-instate to your lifestyle?
If I could add to 7 now, I’d add a fast on my complacency. I’m not sure what that would look like exactly, but a structured month on serving, investing in my city, connecting with my neighbors, living on mission with my faith community…this could be powerful. I wish I would’ve used 7 as a tangible tool to turn outward and serve. Even if it would feel contrived (as much of this did at first), I believe powerful relationships could’ve been formed. Readers ask me all the time: “Where do I start? What do I do? How can I live on mission?” and 7 could’ve been a better tool in this regard.
My question is how do you move into daily life, without guilt, but embracing the fast and the feast.
Yes. Great question. My worry that 7 would be a guilt-trip was debilitating. It is simply not true or helpful to mire in condemnation here. I believe discipleship in this area is made up of a thousand little moments. There are small, simple ways to constantly stage a mutiny against our own excesses and greed. Most of these are not giant, earth-shattering choices but rather simple, day-by-day decisions that steadily move us closer to God and His agenda and further from our own. The freedom comes in recognizing: THIS COUNTS. The small victories for the kingdom count. The easy choices for non-consumption count. Following those nudges toward people and justice and conservation and love counts. God is for our liberation here; this is one thing I know for sure. What I’ve found is that over time, over the course of a thousand small choices, our hearts start changing. It’s just crazy how God does that. When I was filming a portion of the 7 study with The Council (available in December), my friend Jenny said, “I’m not sure 7 stuck at all.” Then as we started talking on camera, discussing the thousand little moments and looking backward in grand, sweeping fashion, recognizing how far we’d actually come, she said, “Oh my gosh. It did!” Sometimes God changes us while we’re barely aware of it. He’s so sneaky.
Since doing your ’7′ experiment, is there anything now that you just can’t personally justify doing or buying? What I mean is, do you refuse to buy bottle water, or shop at large department stores, or buy non-organic food, or put regular gasoline in your suburban, or feed your kids fast food? (Just examples, of course). Have you developed any new “non-negotiables” for your family or personal life, since your 7 experiment?
Great question. Let me extend a little grace to everyone here (including myself): hard-core lines in the sand are sometimes necessary, and sometimes they create bondage. I would say I drew some soft-core lines in the sand, and sometimes life just happens and we eat Chick-Fil-A and Cheetos and buy shoes at Walmart because our six-year-old daughter tells us as we are pulling into a playdate that she didn’t put any shoes on and we’re 40 minutes from home. My rules are “for the most part.” For the most part, we don’t buy bottled water or use a bunch of disposable plastic stuff, we have limits around media and try to protect Sunday. We don’t shop for sport, which helps us not spend. (Thank you for not asking me about restaurants. Ahem.) Well, we did draw hardcore lines around products we know were made through slave and child labor – chocolate, sugar, coffee, certain brands. For the most part, we try to live with integrity after 7, and when we don’t, we dust ourselves off and carry on.
Did you lose anyone along the way? Did you have someone you respected, loved, thought you were in this journey with for the long haul that has decided this type of authentic-ness was too much?
Bless it. I’m sure I have, but I don’t know who. Lucky for me, I tricked my best friends into becoming The Council, so the inner circle was tight. We also run in a faith pack that goes against the grain a bit in this department. That said, without question people have distanced themselves from me, or at least from the message of 7. Why wouldn’t they? I totally get it. I’ve gotten plenty of proverbial pats on the head here, good for you and godspeed, bye. Let’s be honest, this is difficult material. Who wants to be confronted on excess? The key is walking your own story with grace. If people are put off by their own guilt or defensiveness, that’s on them. But if they are offended by our aggressiveness or judgment or presentation, that’s on us. We need not be the Holy Spirit in anyone else’s life. He’s doing a fine job already. But even in a gracious personal response, some people will simply find offense, because the subject is too close, the content too threatening. Staging a mutiny against American indulgence isn’t going to win many fans. However, the defectors are out there; you wouldn’t believe the response to 7, a little project I ASSURED The Council no one, absolutely no one would want to duplicate. I laughed in their faces when they mentioned it. Point: The Council.
How do you balance purchasing organic / local / made in America items versus the higher cost of those items? We want to be eating and purchasing the quality items but what I spend on them in a month (not even in excess) is what someone in a third world country could live on for a year.
Agreed. I honestly found a balance, because though organic and Fair Trade is more costly, I also quit buying a bunch of other garbage (and some I continue to purchase, because, you know, FOR THE MOST PART). I find “Made in America” not so cost-prohibitive at places like Old Navy and several Target brands. And again, if we buy in equal quantity as we ever have but with high-integrity brands, we might go into the poorhouse. This is where “lower consumption” comes into play. Buy less, buy better.
How do you stay humble or walk in humility? These life steps, heart values, mission statements look different for everyone so how do you stay in relationships with those who have a different set than yours?
Oh my. I walk in humility because I am fully, totally, absolutely aware of how far I have to go. I am under no delusions here. I have readers praising 7 who are light-years ahead of me in obedience and lifestyle. I still struggle and fail constantly in every area. It’s all terribly humbling. When I have a reader living on the mission field in Guatemala tell me 7 has convicted her of selfishness, I could crawl under a rock. I am a sister on the same journey, struggling, trying, wanting to do more than I am, praying. This is my honest answer. I do not turn a critical eye outward. How could I? I try to give as much grace as I need, which is enormous. It is certainly helpful that my faith community holds such similar values, so my immediate people are encouraging, not discouraging. I am inspired by my community. I really do understand that God is leading us all uniquely, which is why 7 is not a set of rules or a template. In summary, failure keeps me humble, and evidently I am not in short supply; grace keeps me humble, because I’ve been given so much; God keeps me humble, because He constantly reminds me that He is God and I’m not and that’s the end of that conversation.
How do you live with the push-back from traditional churches/evangelicals/American Cultural Christianity in regards to creation care and social activism (or is this even an issue)? Do you feel any need to “self-censor” within particular segments and fight the good fight silently?
I believe my “self-censor” button is broken. And oh my, do I ever get pushback. Peruse my blog comment feed for a sampling. I receive very little criticism on creation care, which is terribly encouraging and hopeful for the future of evangelical participation here. But in terms of social activism and economic restraint and generosity and calling people upward…no one likes a prophet. I’m no stranger to a cold cup of water poured on many a flame I’ve lit, even from well-meaning Christians who are basically like GAH, can’t you just let it be??? Challenging people with much to lose, including myself, is brutal. I applaud my sisters and brothers who are fighting the good fight quietly, in their own hearts and spaces. This counts and matters. As for me, God has not called me to silence, a decision I’ve questioned him on numerous times. Sometimes I hate it. Lots of times others hate it. But this is my lot, so I have no choice. God has been gracious to me, for my skin continues to thicken (this from a people pleaser…only He could pull this off). I say the same prayer every morning: “God, help me be brave.” On the other hand, the groundswell from believers hungry to defect from the American Dream, bursting to live a bigger story, is so GIANT, that encouragement and strength is renewed for me every single solitary day. So many of us are swimming in the same river. God is doing something monumental, and even to be the tiniest little miniscule part of it is thrilling. Every day, I’m standing on my couch, applauding my sisters and brothers in Christ obeying, sacrificing, moving, giving, sharing, and suffering with those who suffer. I am indeed surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses.
What about your books? Did you purge? Reduce? Leave untouched? I don’t WANT to part with any …
Purged literally hundreds of books. Cried a little. Replaced a bunch. Purged again just this summer. Another hundred. Still buying more. I am wondering if I will simply remain unsanctified in this department. HELP ME, BABY JESUS.
We would like to say an extra special THANK YOU to Jen Hatmaker for joining us on Bloom. If you enjoyed participating in this study, would you let her know? You can find Jen at her blog, on Twitter, and Facebook.
And be sure and tune back in next week as we introduce our Fall Recommended Reads Series!