A YEAR OF MINIMALISM: THE AFTER
If you had stumbled upon my post from last year, originally published on The Renovation Project, or if you spent longer than 30 minutes with me at any point during 2017, you knew that I was refraining from consuming anything on the following list: clothes, makeup, shoes, jewelry, manicures, pedicures, hair care, electronics. On the list of things I could buy were replenishments and replacements, food, books, home goods, and anything creatively driven (like paint, sketchpads, or admission to the art museum).
This wasn't my own idea; I had a friend near the end of 2016 explain to me he was taking a year to fast from purchasing clothes (or even receiving them as gifts; he is a better man than I am a woman, as I was absolutely not saying no to gifts). I was convicted, but brushed it off and applauded his obedience, declaring it wasn't for me (and praying fervently: Oh, God, please no. Please, no). But I couldn't shake it, and felt God calling me to the same. Entering into 2017, I geared myself up for a stretching 365 days, because fasting from anything at all is a challenge (and as someone that appreciates a monthly manicure, I knew there would be things I'd miss).
The first half of the year was surprisingly easy. I told a lot of people because 1). I am prideful and, honestly, reveled in the same applause and admiration I had shown my friend earlier and 2). I needed accountability. I really didn't think about buying anything, but it wasn't just because of my fast; I really couldn't afford anything other than the necessities (and even some of the necessities I couldn't quite get to). The latter half of the year increased in difficulty because I was getting tired of rotating through the same 5 pairs of pants and I changed jobs (and therefore, was blessed with a salary increase) and moved apartments (of which my new rent was less than half of my old rent). For the first time, it felt, I had a little bit of extra spending money that I could put toward these things, had I granted myself the ability to. But, instead, I continued on in the trek, circling through my tiresome wardrobe, and instead put my spare dollars toward all things art, seeing as I could purchase anything creatively-driven or inspired. Honestly, my year of non-consumptive minimalism was easy. I didn't miss buying things like I had predicted, I forgot how good it felt to have polished nails, and as happens in a fast, the Lord revealed more of His mystery to me. I understood His Fatherly, providing heart a little bit better, and declared, truthfully, more frequently: You and you alone satisfy, Oh God. You know my every need and you tend to them perfectly and in abundance.
Here's where things get interesting, though, because here's where things got hard: January 1, 2018. The day that I again had the ability to buy the things I want was freeing in one way, and imprisoning in another; again, I had to weigh my options (is this sweater worth a whole day's work? If I buy these high-waisted boot cut jeans now, will I like them in a year? What about in 3 months?). Again, I was faced with the option to consume. Regardless of whether God says yes or no, the world shouts yes! every single time (now, this isn't to say, "if the world says yes, God says no". A lot of the times, they are in tandem. God wants me clothed out here in these streets and he doesn't mind that I like quality, sustainable, ethically-sourced pieces. He is the master craftsman, after all). Some things were a no-brainer (blazer-mini skirt two piece from The Reformation, a la Cher in Clueless: ADD TO CART). Other things, though, like a cropped jean jacket, I purchased on a whim (January 1st, to be exact) but hadn't put any thought into it other than "I can buy stuff"; my Add to Cart button was growing weary thanks to my frenzied stare of consumption. As soon as I could buy things again, I wanted more. The blazer and matching skirt were fun for a cool five minutes, but the following day I was already back to browsing online via every sponsored ad that popped up on my Instagram feed.
Again, conviction overwhelmed me. Ecclesiastes 5:10-12 exemplifies the depths of my heart sufferings: Whoever loves money never has enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with their income. This too is meaningless. As goods increase, so do those who consume them. And what benefit are they to the owners except to feast their eyes on them? The sleep of a laborer is sweet, whether they eat little or much, but as for the rich, their abundance permits them no sleep.
Why did I feel a burning to purchase after a year of abstaining from consumption? I was frustrated with myself, and honestly, frustrated with God, as I shouted, "Didn't you change anything in me? Was last year all in vain? How am I no different than I was a year ago?" Quickly, He reminded me that we are not in a battle against flesh and blood but against the spiritual darkness that consumes this world (and teaches us to consume in frenzied, unsatisfied, disobedient moments of weakness and a yearning to please man before God). The world wants us to consume. And by the world, I don't mean all of its good and beautiful things, the parts that look like heaven; I mean the hellish forces at work intent on our death and destruction. He did change me, for I was identifying these things in myself quickly that needed repentance and forgiveness. It was the world that hadn't changed in that year.
Matthew 6:21 called me out: For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. What CS Lewis' Screwtape would love is for your heart to be found in your closet, among the clean new kicks and the soft sweaters (and the blazers and their matching skirts...). This is where, since the 1st of 2018, I've had to ask God, again and again, for a reset. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, God, and not your material blessings (though so, so good). If he so chooses to bless me abundantly with another suit set in the red plaid option, then so be it (who am I to refuse the blessings of God, amirite?). But, first, let me find joy in His salvation, let me be upheld by His willing spirit, and not the giddiness from pair of shoes for the sake of a social media post. Let my face shine with the reflection of your glory, God, and not the high of what the world calls retail "therapy.”