The Start of Change
A few years ago I did something long overdue: I went on a one-year shopping fast.
I wish I could say I did it because I wanted to. I would prefer to spin this with me looking spiritual and disciplined. But the truth is I did it because one day God nudged me into it by good old-fashioned embarrassment. I’ll tell you about that. But first, let’s go back.
My expression through clothes came early for me as a little girl—my mom told me so. Clothes, even to this day, make me feel like my most authentic me. So when God began to talk to me about how shopping had gotten too high on my priority list, I balked at the ludicrous suggestion.
Life went on, and I flew to Honduras to serve God some more. I spoke to a crowded roomful of people with a Spanish interpreter and kissed the cheek of a woman who was days away from dying with cancer with no meds to ease the raging pain inside her bones. I wrapped my favorite necklace around the neck of a local woman who could speak to me only through her eyes and hugged her tight enough to say “I love you” with my arms. See me loving you most, God? I thought in the quiet of my mind. See how I’m not bound by my love for things and can even give up my favorite necklace? See how you are over all of my life? I felt proud of myself for all the ways I was putting Jesus at the top of my list.
I came back home to the US to a waiting family, a warm bed, and a full closet, which dug at me a little after the poverty I’d just seen. But I wasn’t unaware. I knew I had plenty. I just didn’t see my plenty as any type of competition with God.
I was at a loss as to what to wear to an upcoming speaking event. My crowded closet wasn’t making it easy on me. So I called Shari.
Shari, the bubbly redhead, is one of my most favorite friends. She also happens to be a fashion stylist, which is convenient for times like this. “Oh my word—you have so many clothes, Lisa,” Shari said, thumbing through my clothes with wide eyes and signature Shari laugh.
“I do?” I asked, sincerely. I knew I had plenty. I just couldn’t imagine a clothes person such as Shari thinking it was a lot.
And that was the moment. Shari meant and thought nothing of her passing comment. She wasn’t there to judge, nor is she the type. She was already back into her great outfit search, chatty and unaware, but my mind had now escaped us. I could see nothing but gross excess. At some point, I’d bought them all, probably for a bargain. And I’d probably felt proud.
I’m not proud now. I’m embarrassed.
The Deeper Issue
It is not about the amount of money I spend on clothes or items for my home. It’s not about whether I can technically afford them or if I buy things without going into debt. It is about what I have chosen over God sometimes to numb myself or give myself a high when I am sad, or happy, or bored. It is about what has become for me a “deadly over”—overindulging my visual wants and cravings, and grossly making my life more complicated as a result.
My having so many clothes that I don’t even know what to wear was the small symptom, but the big symptom was the angst, that nagging feeling of being out of control, which led to the cycle of guilt, regret, and justification when I shop. If I’d been honest with myself in so many of the moments I’d hid behind my swiped debit card, Jesus could have helped me. It was in this moment, in my closet with Shari, that I realized how I’d been putting myself over Jesus, even with the silly shopping I usually thought nothing of.
Fasting and Learning
Three months after Shari visited me in my closet, I started my one-year shopping fast.
I did it for one whole year—buying nothing for myself that was a want versus a need in the clothes or home décor department (my two areas of historical overindulgence). I made it without buying a single thing, though at times I came close. I learned the art of having things in a cart, walking away, and not feeling embarrassed over it (sorry, all the store workers who found my abandoned carts). I got used to staying away from stores completely. Over time, it became a new lifestyle.
I felt God becoming more important to me than my momentary need to fix myself with something that will never fix me.
We beg God for help in the midst of a life with a mixed-up order of priorities and wonder why things aren’t working; yet when we put Him over all the things on our list, a myriad of our complications fall away. If you’ve ever done this, even in one decision, you know it’s true. If you haven’t yet, I hope you’ll try it. We aren’t pain-free, struggle-free, or problem-free (John 16:33). But we have fewer complications, which is at the core of much of our daily angst.
I’m okay with it if you want to put Jesus over everything—starting with yourself—for a reason other than one that is super-spiritual. Maybe you feel like it’s the right thing to do. Maybe you feel it is expected of you as a follower of Jesus. Maybe your heart really isn’t in it right now and you are leaning toward making the choice simply because you’re embarrassed you never have before. Or maybe your decisions up to this point have created a complicated life or situation, and that’s not the life you want, so it’s more about finally trying it
From someone who wildly reaped the benefits of a year’s shopping fast—and who was largely embarrassed into it—let me just say that sometimes a bad reason to start is enough. And on this Jesus-over-Everything journey, I have faith that if you stay committed to it, somewhere along the way it will become a new lifestyle.
And you’ll wind up wanting it this way, because it is the way it is supposed to be.