7 by Jen Hatmaker {a review}

Confronted by the worldly abundance in her life, Jen Hatmaker decided to rebel against cultural norms with an unconventional fast from greed, materialism, and overindulgence.  She identified seven areas of excess and tackled them one month at a time.  The result is recorded in Jen’s thought provoking book, 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess.

The Hatmaker family (along with some friends who were willing to participate in this crazy experiment) would only eat seven foods, wear seven articles of clothing, and spend money in seven places.  They would eliminate use of seven media outlets, give away seven things each day, adopt seven green habits, and observes seven “sacred pauses.”  This mutiny lasted seven months, each practice assigned to a different month.

Jen shares her journey through the 7 experiment in journal style.  She is humorous, honest, and humble about her struggles and successes along the way.

If the state of my paperback copy of this book is any indication of how much I would recommend 7, you should go out and buy it immediately.  The cover is bent from being shoved in my purse so I could read it during any downtime, pages are mussed up and underlined, and water marks belie the truth that it was in the bathroom (a favorite reading spot) a lot.

I’m still not sure whether I read 7 at the perfect time or the worst time.

My heart was primed for talk of purging and simplifying after reading Tsh Oxenreider’s book, Organized Simplicity. I may have freaked The Hubs out with all my talk of family purpose statements, home management, and garage sales (which we did have!).

However, all of this upheaval in my heart about intentional living coincided with upheaval in my day to day life.  Tim and I were newly married, job searching, and didn’t have a permanent place to live.  Major transitions were in motion and I started reading 7 the day we got the keys to our new apartment, 1300 miles away from where we previously called home.

I was ripe for revival in this new season, this new place, but very full with all the changes that had happened and were happening.  Our  move was the perfect opportunity to start fresh, but I was already overwhelmed with adjusting to our new situation let alone adjusting to a new style of living.

We had already reduced our possessions before moving and were beginning to weigh purchases against budget and priorities.  But, I realized this book was prompting an attitude adjustment not just an actions overhaul.

I was especially convicted about my closet.  During high school and college, I built a large part of my identity around the clothes I wore.   I had accumulated quite the clothing collection over those years and continued to purchase without purging.  Not only did I need to purge, I also needed to extricate my value from my apparel.

Month by month, as I laughed, sighed, and agreed with Jen, I became more fired up about simplicity.  But, I also developed a superior attitude about my new found zest for intentional living.  I judged other people’s choices, holding them to my own new standards.

By the time I had gotten to the last couple chapters, I was mentally crafting an S.O.S. to Jen asking how she approached other Christians who were not on the same beam about reducing excess and increasing generosity.

Then I read her conclusion. Screech. Halt. Lightbulb. Humbled.

7 allowed us to slowly break up with some of our ideas, our luxuries. However, even if I had a clear directive, I’m not sure I’d share it here. Whatever God has done or is doing in our family is certainly not a template, and I don’t want it to be.  We live in a certain city with a certain task, we have specific gifts, and we’re horribly deficient in others.  Our life looks like it does because we are the Hatmakers, and God is dealing with us the way He’s dealing with us.  We have a history and sin issues and circumstances and geography that God takes into account as He stakes our place in His kingdom. {218}

My judgment of others was based on a formula – a formula I wasn’t 100% successful at, I might add!  Fasting isn’t really about what you go without, but why you go without.  I realized that 7 wasn’t prescriptive, but descriptive.

The process of lightening our mental, physical, spiritual, and emotional load in order to serve God wholeheartedly looks different for everyone.  It isn’t a formula. Jen’s message isn’t one of judgement for the techno-dependent, hoarders in all of us; it is encouragement to take an honest look at our resources and how we use them.

Each of us is in a different place on the journey. I am responsible for my own journey and to spur others on in their own journey, not to criticize.

When the reading was over, 7 left me meditating on these two verses:

But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. {Matthew 6:20}

He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. {Micah 6:8}

10 thoughts on “7 by Jen Hatmaker {a review}

  1. I’m adding this book to my wish list. I love books on getting rid of stuff and putting God first. This sounds like it’s right up my alley. Thanks for taking the time to write a book review.

    1. This book is going to be an annual read, I think. I feel like each read will yield new changes in my heart. I would love to hear your feedback if you read it, Ginny!

  2. This is so great! I am currently trying to learn the same lesson. I should read this book too. I think we thought/think a lot a like in this area and it’s a tough mindset to change.

  3. I read this post when you originally posted it in Nov but just read it again. And i love it again!
    This book is on my “to read” list in May and it might be the first one on my list. Excited to see how it works in my life and my family’s life.

    1. Oh Ginny, I just know you will love it! I would love to hear your thought on the book, so let me know when you read it!!

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