It seems fitting that on this, Independence Day, my week-long fast from media has come to an end. It has been, without question, the hardest week of Jen Hatmaker’s The 7 Challenge…so far. This day of freedom reminds me that while “everything is allowable, but not everything is profitable. Everything is allowable but everything does not build others up (1 Cor. 10:23 WNT).” This has been the only week where I caught myself, unconsciously, doing the very thing I wasn’t supposed to be doing. Driving into the office (an infrequent occurrence for me) at 4:30am, it took until somewhere in the second song on the radio before I screamed, “NO RADIO!” and clicked it off. It is unbelievably hard to drive to work in the dark of 4:30am with no radio. I found myself CRAVING news, music, programs…anything I wasn’t supposed to have. I even wanted to play the Wii! Learning to be conscious of what I’m letting into my unconscious mind has been a significant challenge, and a significant learning experience. A freeing experience.
When you take a single, extremely introverted woman who lives alone and works from home and remove from her all connections to other human beings aside from face-to-face contact and the telephone, life becomes very…quiet. My sweet sister kept calling me to ask me how I was doing. “It’s very lonely,” I said. I hadn’t realized how much our society has substituted fast and frivolous communication for deep and meaningful contact until now. Aside from my sister (and one friend that I called to check on when she missed church) I couldn’t get anyone to talk to me on the phone. I received a variety of reasons (it takes too long, I’m too busy, I don’t want to get stuck talking all day, I’m not a phone person). I’m not a phone person either, but believe me…when that’s your only permitted means of communication that doesn’t require you to physically go to the person…you do it! I even had one person text me to ask if I was still not texting!!! It cracked me up. (A big thank you so much to my friend who not only had me over for dinner, but went so out of her way to provide gluten-free deliciousness for me to enjoy along with the much craved company!)
The more I thought about it, the more I wondered about why we just don’t want to talk to each other any more. Why are we content with a text or an IM or an email? I wonder if it doesn’t have something to do with keeping things on our own terms, with the least effort. Texting/IMing/emailing is one-sided. There are no interruptions, no competing to speak, no patiently waiting for the other person to finish what they are saying. I can say what I want, when I want, and for as long as I want…and you can’t stop me. An actual conversation requires us to give as well as take. To respect and consider the other person at least as equally as we respect and consider our own thoughts and words. It also requires that sometimes we assert ourselves in ways that might make things awkward for us. For example: “I only have a minute to talk before I have to leave for a meeting, but I needed to call and ask you this…..”; setting up boundaries that prevent rambling conversation. I know I have a hard time with this…but does that mean I should completely give up on trying? Or should I spend more time trying until I am comfortable establishing and maintaining these boundaries?
One of the main goals of The 7 Challenge is to remove things from your life to allow God room. That certainly happened this week. With nothing else to occupy the silence in my apartment, I poured myself into Bible study. I finished Priscilla Shirer’s Gideon study and began Kelly Minter’s No Other gods study, which (not coincidentally I’m sure) also focuses on removing things from your life and making room for God. But even after doing 3 weeks in a row of that study in a few hours, I still wanted more. (Thank you GOD I’m no longer that teenage girl who sighed heavily and grumbled through her teeth over having to read one Scripture verse and a paragraph of devotional to go with it. I asked you to make me hungry for Your Word and I can’t get enough…thank You!). I grabbed Beth Moore’s Wising Up study on Proverbs, and wouldn’t you know it…a verse in the first lesson was identical to a verse that hit me over the head from the No Other gods study. I’m convinced it’s one of those things I’ve allowed in my life for far too long and this time of silence was meant to reveal it to me so I can get it out!
2 Timothy 3:1-6. The passage starts with listing how messed up with sin the men of this age are…and we’ll pick things up toward the end of verse 5: “Avoid such men as these. 6 For among them are those who enter into households and captivate weak women weighed down with sins, led on by various impulses…”
This is one of those verses that always made me cringe as a woman. It always felt like it was condemning all women for being weak when the truth is 1) it doesn’t make men look any stronger given the lists of offenses in the previous verses, and 2) it’s a warning, in love, so that women will NOT be weak. More insight into this weakness is gained by coupling it with the definition of the “simple” in need of wisdom in Proverbs…meaning those who are gullible, naive, and SEDUCIBLE. Women aren’t all “weak”; but all women have in them something that CAN make them weak…and that is the need we have to be desired, to be wanted, to be loved. No, there’s nothing wrong with those needs; but if we expect any human being to be the fulfillment of those needs…we aren’t just being weak, we are being seducible. It is unwise. It is a train-wreak waiting to happen. There are those out there who sense this weakness and are drawn to it like a shark is drawn to blood in the water. The more desperate you are for it, the more thrashing about you do in search of it, the more sharks will be circling you. The next thing you know they will be in your home and you, being led by those impulses, will be spiritual dead meat.
This isn’t limited simply to men seeking to seduce women into bed, but anyone seeking to seduce you away from where you should be. Look at how the Merriam-Webster online dictionary defines seduce- “to persuade to disobedience or disloyalty, to lead astray usually by persuasion or false promises”. Talk about falling under conviction. How many times have I allowed myself to be led astray because of persuasion or false promises? Isn’t this exactly what happened to Eve? She knew the truth. God Himself told her she could eat of every seed-bearing plant, except the one. Enter Satan. He didn’t tell her anything untrue. He just told her what she wanted to hear. She saw the tree had fruit, the tree looked good…and he persuaded her…seduced her…deceived her. This is NOT who we are called to be. God warns us against being weak women because He loves us and wants us NOT to be seduced, not to be led astray. So no more being gullible or naive. Let’s be strong willed woman. Not void of kindness or compassion, but not willing to be seduced.
So what’s up for this next week? Waste. This week, I will be eliminating waste in my life by gardening, composting, conserving energy and water, recycling, not using paper towels, not using disposable plastic water bottles, and not using plastic grocery bags. This is a blend of the suggested and alternate 7 items as some of the original I already do. Some of those I’ve chosen for this week I already do, but falteringly. I have been raised in a desert where conserving water and energy has been drilled into my head most of my life, but I’ve become lax with it, as I have with remembering to bring the reusable grocery bags I have, or using my reusable water bottle. Gardening, composting, and recycling have always been on my to do list, but living in an apartment is not conducive to any of these. Thankfully a friend is allowing me to contribute to her compost pile in exchange for some of her composted soil to try to start my container herb garden; and my sister is allowing me to bring my recyclables to her recycle bin. I’m excited. I love how this study is forcing me to finally put my boots to the ground in areas I’ve always meant to. Best of all, I’ve noticed that the fasts from weeks past have stuck. I’m still eating simply, focusing on whole foods (with occasional exceptions). I just used some of my grocery money to buy a purse made in Rwanda (the money supporting the people there…see http://www.allacrossafrica.org). I’m still going through my things and giving them away. These lessons are taking deep root. Prayerfully, permanent ones.