Another 7 friend and I set out for a run in 6:00 am darkness. She was wearing her 7-sanctioned clothes and looked like a ninja. My option for a jacket was my brown fleece, which I didn’t really want to wear because, really, running 6 miles in a fleece jacket? We decided that our Council would approve me wearing my bright yellow reflective running jacket for safety reasons. 7-induced car-runner accidents doesn’t seem like a good idea. Plus, we wouldn’t be able to wear the gown at the hospital because it wasn’t one of our 7.
I washed up our winter coats today because I’m DONE with winter. If I can suck it up this week, then I don’t need my heavy coat anymore. As I’m doing this, I realize I am buying into my imaginary need Jen wrote about. My real need is a winter coat to protect me from the dangerous cold of a Wisconsin winter. My perceived (imaginary) need is that I need different coats for different things. Even though I gave some coats away a few weeks ago, I still have three winter coats. I have a long brown one I bought in seminary to be warm as I walked between train stations and on campus. Two years ago, I bought a long white coat (the one I always wear) not because I needed another coat but because it was on super sale at REI (I think it was $40). I thought, “How can I NOT buy this because it’s cheaper than anything I’ll find when I actually need to replace my other coat.” Really? Now, I only wear the brown coat when I’m out with the kids in the snow (rarely) or need to snow-blow because Dave is out-of-town (not at all this winter). Essentially this is the coat I wear to not get my white one dirty.
I also have a short red coat. I only wear this coat in the fall to football games. It allows me to be warm, sport the team colors and not be a total loser by wearing a parka in October. This is just a convenience because I could layer up with fall stuff and blankets (which I still take) – or I could just pull out the white coat in October.
I feel like I can justify all three when I know the reality is I can get by with one. My argument is that I am protecting my white coat from getting stained or too dirty and thus being a good steward. So let’s break this down a little.
I justify my imaginary needs. Real needs don’t need to be justified…because they are REAL. As a Christian, I need to think really hard about what I justify. In Scripture, justify is used synonymously with made righteous, as in:
[Jesus] said to them, “You are the ones who justify yourselves before other people, but God knows your hearts. What is highly valued by people is deeply offensive to God.” – Luke 16:15 (CEB)
All have sinned and fall short of God’s glory, but all are treated as righteous freely by his grace because of a ransom that was paid by Christ Jesus. – Romans 3:23-24 (CEB)
My imaginary needs are cheap grace.
My arguments for “needing” my three winter jackets are justifying the purchases – trying to make them right when they are wrong. When I justify imaginary needs – especially when the real needs of people in my city, country, world are not being met – I am trying to make righteous what is really not. This is what Jesus does for me, for us. I realize some people would say it’s a bit of a reach for me to set my three coats alongside my soul. But here are the other verses that have been brought to my mind as I write this:
This is why I tell you that her many sins have been forgiven; so she has shown great love. The one who is forgiven little loves little.” – Luke 7:47 (CEB)
But the one who did not know and did what deserved a beating will receive a light beating. From everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required; and from the one to whom much has been entrusted, even more will be demanded. – Luke 12:48 (NRSV)
The good person out of the good treasure of the heart produces good, and the evil person out of evil treasure produces evil; for it is out of the abundance of the heart that the mouth speaks. – Luke 6:45 (NRSV)
I believe the little things matter. In some way that I can’t fully convey with words, the righteousness I have in Christ is cheapened when I make righteous my imaginary needs. This may be because my imaginary needs fuel the injustice that exists in a consumer-driven, capitalistic world. I want my imaginary needs justified because I like to have new clothes.
I think it’s OK that I own more than 7 articles of clothing. I think it’s OK that my family takes a vacation. I think it’s OK that we own two cars. Probably in the grand scheme of things it’s OK that I have three coats – except that I can see how hard I have to work to make it right. Furthermore, I am keeping the extra coats to protect the one I actually wear. It must be a sign of an imaginary need when the justification is protection of an inanimate object (some would actually call this idolatry).
Once again, I am focused on the world’s scarcity rather than God’s abundance.
As I head back into my closet again before this week is done, I am going to have evaluate what is driving my needs and shaping my perception of reality. Where do I find my identity and value? What is enough? What is just? And I probably need to give these other two coats away…
I pulled another 27 things out of my closet for donation / clothing swap, which puts me just over a 100 item reduction. I’m going to commit to wearing something different each day (or every other day, if it’s not dirty clearly wearing it two days in a row is doable) in the weeks to come to continue the purge. If I don’t wear it by the time we’re done with 7 (except the shorts and tanks), it will need to go.
The act of wearing 7 items of clothing wasn’t hard for me. I didn’t have the challenge of working in the same place every day. What I did notice, though, is what a difference it is not wearing any accessories. It wasn’t so much that I felt I needed them but rather could have used them to mix up my 7 staple items. I have almost 20 scarves (after pulling out a few I really don’t wear) and even more sweaters. With these items, I should be able to have significantly fewer pants and tops than what I’ve perceived I “need” in the past. This week’s 7 experience will continue to play itself out over the coming weeks and months to a (hopefully) permanently reduced closet.
As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved,clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.
Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.
And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. – Colossians 3:12-17 (CEB)
Next week: Possessions