We tried SO hard.
There were many places in which the challenges from Summer of 7 smacked me between the eyes with my need for more of God and less of myself, my excess, my waste, my words, and my vanity. But there were a few places where I wondered if I was just feeding my need to DO SOMETHING.
See, I’m a good girl. Before I began mowing down the excess in my life from 7, I was eagerly sharing the brilliance I had learned from Emily Freeman’s Grace for the Good Girl, which is simply eerie in how closely it describes my existence. In fact, over the spring, I led two different groups through reading it. After I finished that for the third time, I was certain, I mean CERTAIN, that I had Let Go of the Try Hard Life, just as the tagline advertises.
I closed it, picked up 7, and became just as enamored. Because while Emily identified my fearful, insecure, people pleasing good girl, Jen completely got the other side, my craving, deep and utter, to have the crust scraped off the day to day excess of my heart, so I could see, hear, and demonstrate Jesus’ love to others. She seemed to get why simplicity and generosity are inextricable.
Also, when Jen talked about her multiple personality disorder with her organic personality, Sage Moonjava; her buy local personality, Ryvre ; and her socially conscious personality, Freedom Shakra; I literally wept tears of hilarity. On that page 140, she described my mental war and and actually my blog. Admittedly, I was insanely jealous and annoyed that she so concisely expressed what I struggle to do every time I see the word “poorganic,”
Upon finishing Jen’s book, I concluded a thorough summertime 7-style fast was just what I needed. Hence, I created Summer of 7. (Click here to read about that and see the 7 trailer if you haven’t already.)
And I’m SO GLAD I did. SO GLAD. I know that God was directing me to initiate this because of the other people who picked up the book because of Summer of 7. I met a lot of great bloggers through the link ups. I even connected with some other local bloggers, including Amy at Permission to Peruse, who has really become a kindred spirit lately. Interestingly, she has been hearing A LOT of the same things from the Holy Spirit that I have. I mean, it is like he has the agenda with us girls or something.
But after media week, when I had to return to this blog and Facebook despite my desire to abandon it forever, I realized that my “eliminated” excesses were frustratingly quick to jump back into my lap. I mean, I can walk to Food Lion for three weeks, but I can’t walk there forever. I can go without makeup for a week, but after that, these pimples are just too ugly. I can get rid of piles of crud in my house, but that doesn’t keep me from buying more when I spot a sweet onesie romper at Plato’s Closet. (Just FYI, the longest FB thread this 34 year old mama has ever had was you gals weighing in on the romper. That thar’s priorities, my friends!)
Truthfully, I began to be weary of trying SO HARD to be good at 7, yet feeling that after I mowed my excess, all of it grew right back like summertime grass. I had let go of the “try-hard life,” but then I was trying so hard to let go of the excessive life, and then I was tired.
Just tired. There were several points this summer where I thought, I just CAN’T do this. I can’t change. I can’t give up more stuff. I CAN’T bear cleaning this heart out. This HURTS. How AM I supposed to change?
Well, actually, she spoke at her church and since I live only two hours away, I decided to convince some of my good gals to come with me to hear her talk.
so that I could stalk her, try not to seem creepy, and get her to sign my Good Girl book again. (Jen, if you were in my state, I would be creepy and drive to see you too. PS: Are you coming to NC anytime soon? ;))
Much of the way up, we raved on Grace for the Good Girl, but we also discussed the one nagging “problem” we felt the book had, which was that it didn’t really provide a sufficiently detailed outline for how to let go of the try-hard life. In the end, there wasn’t a clear list, you know, with bullet points. Unlike 7, where there were 7 tidy challenges to succeed or fail at, getting rid of your inner good girl, just ain’t that easy. And let me tell you, there were some 7ers in the car too.
And I began to think that, even with the clearly defined 7 challenges, mowing down excess isn’t that easy either.
Funnily enough, Emily spoke on this very thing, that the book ends without bullet points or to do lists. And among the many amazing things that she shared, I’m going to pick out one little tidbit that God handed me for letting go of my try-hard Summer of 7. (She wrote a whole post if you’d rather read her eloquence than my bumblings.)
She spoke from John 6 where the followers of Jesus who have JUST eaten the multiplied food, want to know how he miraculously got across the water. (Multiplying food? Unconventional modes of travel? What is this guy up to?) Here’s the text.
25 When they found him on the other side of the lake, they asked him, “Rabbi, when did you get here?”
26 Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw the signs I performed but because you ate the loaves and had your fill. 27 Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.”
28 Then they asked him, “What must we do to do the works God requires?”
29 Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.”
We sound just that way, I’m afraid. Good Girls? 7ers?
WHAT MUST WE DO?? Jesus, tell me, what are the WORKS (preferably that can be checked-off) that God requires?! What can I get rid of? What can I cut out?
And you know, the answer is actually annoying in many ways.
Believe. Not in yourself.
Believe. Not in your stuff.
Believe.In the ONE. HE. HAS. SENT.
Emily said one other thing through this ginormous megaphone, which caused it to reverberate off the sides of my skull. (Not really, but that is what it felt like.) She said, “The work of belief will always be harder than the work of our hands.”
Yup. It is. Checklist is easy. Tossing you junk is easy. Counting off excesses is easi-er.
Untouchable, untraceable, unknowable belief? That is vapor.
Then I looked back at the end of 7 to see that Jen says a similar thing. She says, “Offer yourself the same grace Jesus has given you. We’re no good to Him stuck in paralysis.” She says that our actions and motivations shouldn’t be based on what we’re against, but who we are for, Jesus, the one he has sent, the one who says that I’m free from bondage to stuff, to works, to myself.
For these realities to continue to penetrate the thickness that is my head, I do need to practice spiritual fasts, and I do need to resist wearing masks and trying hard for naught, but mainly, I need to believe that the very same TRANSFORMING, almighty power that raised Christ Jesus from the dead lives in me–already. Right now. My doing needs to be limited. My letting needs to be GREAT.
Clearing out the muck of my life and heart enables the letting. It enables me to hear the truth. Turning off the noise, the Facebook, the vanity, creates space for me to hear. Because, I realize now that the reason these books resonated within me so deeply is because they reiterated truths to my heart that the HOLY SPIRIT had already spoken to me in God’s word. I agreed with them because God’s Spirit within me was saying, “YES!! That’s what I’ve been saying!” But I don’t think I heard Him clearly because I wasn’t tuned in. I wasn’t LETTING.
I really was a big enough dork to ask Emily Freeman to sign my book again (after she signed it last fall at Relevant) and here it is. I don’t think she was trying to be profound, but in preparation for this post, I couldn’t help but thinking that it kind of was.
. . . and MORE grace to you!
We do need MORE grace and to daily bathe ourselves in the grace Jesus offered to us because that is the ONLY way that we can release the excesses that threaten to MOW us down. Through his grace, we can serve others, give to others, be His hands and feet to the world.
Finally, in the last few days, as I’ve thought back through the two books, here’s the verse that came to mind.
1 Thessalonians 5:23-25
23 May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24 The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it.
HE will do it.
He will DO it.
I won’t do it.
He will sanctify me THROUGH and THROUGH.
If I can just LET him, HE will do it.
My uttermost thanks, appreciation, and ingratiating behavior do I give to Jen Hatmaker and Emily Freeman, who inspire me and draw me to Jesus, the author and perfecter of my faith. (See that again. HE perfects my faith. Not me.) And thanks to you all who have participated and read along with Summer of 7. If you haven’t read 7 yet, the bookclub at Bloom is going to be covering it with input from Jen, so that will be a great time to join in.
I’m linking up to the Summer of 7 bloghop which was just about the most blogging fun I’ve ever had.