You might have heard me mention on Facebook a week or so ago that I was reading a book called 7 by Jen Hatmaker. The book is a journal of sorts which Jen keeps as she, her family, and a circle of friends intentionally begin to experience the process of reducing or separating from the overindulgence of the American norm. They took seven months and chose seven areas in which to simplify their lives. Food, Clothes, Spending, Media, Possessions, Waste, and Stress. I read the book this week and was given the wonderful opportunity to review it. So here is my opinion (for what its worth).
Several months ago I had the privilege to hear Jen speak at a conference. At the time I was struck by how real, normal and relatable she was. I’m the one who drove her back and forth to the airport and the hotel. She had plenty opportunity to reveal her true self during those times and while our conversation certainly touched on the spiritual and the motivation for the conference. We also talked kids, gardening, food, college football and the Big 12. (My husband is laughing hysterically right now at that picture in his head!) I met the same person at the conference that I met while reading the book. Funny, irreverent, earnest and willing to be honest about who she is. That’s why the book “7” works. It’s not a pie in the sky, super spiritual book that you walk away from thinking, “Wow what an amazing Christian woman!” (No offence please Jen!). You walk away thinking, this woman is like me, and that means if she can do it I can do it. Which makes us want to look outside of ourselves to see our community, our neighbors, our environment and our role in each. The book tackles issues that many people want to avoid thinking about, like the homeless, the environment (which conservatives like me run screaming from for fear of being considered liberal) and keeping the Sabbath with a Biblical perspective you might not have heard before.
The impact this book had on me wasn’t perhaps what you would think. Three years ago, when our life changing stuff really began to happen I experienced by circumstance not by choice some of what she talks about in her book. Ask people who have been in the same situation; it’s amazing what you can live without when you have to. As for getting rid of stuff? Ha! My closet is a perfect example of how much stuff we have gotten rid of. It is plenty full now and literally a quarter of the size it was when we started this journey. I was impacted so much more by the things I least expected. The Chapters on Spending, Waste and Stress were my big “Ah Ha!” moments. Jen spends time on the modern church in the chapter on Spending, and it was one of those times I had to keep interrupting my husband’s bowl games on TV to read excerpts out loud so he could appreciate it too!
Don’t read “7” with the expectation that it will change your life. Jen definitely leaves that up to you. But it will confront you with the question of whether you really want to change your life, or whether you just want to live with your status quo. She doesn’t ask us as the reader to do what she is doing to achieve a better relationship with God. She doesn’t set this up as an ultimate how to book nor is she angling to become your social awareness guru. Jen is just honestly sharing with us what this process looks like to her, and in doing so what it would look like to you if you are willing to step outside your comfort zone. So my view if you couldn’t tell? Do Read “7”.