Excess

For the past six months I’ve been vegetarian – well, not purely vegetarian. I eat fish, too, as do many of my life-long vegetarian friends. Fortunately for me, this is only a year-long endeavor…so this summer I will return to the delicious world of carnivores. I never thought I could go this long without meat! And until the last month or so, I craved meat all the time. Ranch pringles took the edge off, but then again, that sort of defeated my purpose for going veggie…so sadly the pringles have been few, and far between.

When the new year began I had a sudden epiphany about meat.
I don’t need it.

Seem obvious, considering some people go without meat their entire lives? Let me tell you something, it’s not so obvious when you’re staring bleakly into a dreary, meatless year that appears to the naked eye as forever. This realization has freed me from 97% of my former meat cravings, though Chili’s Honey Chipotle Chicken Crispers have stalked my dreams of late. And that was another surprise: realizing you don’t need something – that you can really live without and go on – is actually liberating.

One of the required classes at Houghton was/is (is it still?) “Introduction to Christianity.” Or as some have nicknamed it, “Intro to Christ.” I had the good fortune of my first professor being moved from that class to another, and instead being taught by Dr. Walters. Dr. Walters helped put the original syllabus together for the class, and he gave me a love of theology that sticks with me three years later. As the semester neared its end we learned about spiritual disciplines. I’d been only briefly introduced to them before. Perhaps because I’d spent the year cementing my desire to live and work abroad (though I didn’t know how just yet), but frugality as a practice caught my attention.

I thought of my numerous – and much beloved – pairs of shoes.
Clothes I never wore.
Bric-a-brac that held little value but a lot of space.

I should add that the way Dr. Walters presented each issue, I never felt guilty. Instead, I could seriously consider the merits of a discipline like frugality…and acknowledge how far I am from living that out! That summer I thought of frugality here and there. I even cleaned out the attic and sorted hundreds of papers into “trash” and “keep” and “maybe keep.” It never went further; even in my life right now, frugality still hasn’t gone further. And yet, it has instigated change.

In late December I read “Guerilla Lovers” and was confronted with a swollen word: excess.

Since leaving college in May, I finally spent hours throwing away, giving away, and selling in a yard sale.  That took care of a good bit of the excess in my life. In fact, at the point of reading “Guerilla Lovers,” it wouldn’t have been ridiculous for me to pat myself on the back!

Well done, Emily. You’re not a pack rat anymore!

But that word? Oooh, that word!

Excess.

It has its place, too true…excess crop, excess space, excess warm clothing so we can give it away to those without…yes, perhaps excess belongs there. But in “Guerilla Lovers” excess got in my face as things I have yet to surrender to my Father in Heaven. Honestly, that was only a small part of what the author wanted to say. He mostly used this word to talk about giving away our excess to the poor and to our brothers and sisters who could use it more than we could; a vital point for Christians to live under. Nevertheless, I realized there was something I had not given up. Something I treasure and adore, but didn’t want to offer to my King.

I’ve gotten rid of shoes and pared down to a few pairs that will stick with me in Europe.
I’ve woken up in the middle of the night thinking of a purse I really don’t have to have & put it in “give away.”
I’ve trashed bric-a-brac that cluttered my dresser but didn’t take up space in my heart, anyway.

But that one thing…

Book fair I went to last April

books. Books. books! Books!

I lo-o-ove them.

I own a myriad. They are my heart! (You understand I’m embellishing for dramatic effect, right?) My destiny! My precious! Ahhhh…And I had to surrender each word of every book.

Am I saying it’s sinful to keep a lot of books? Purses? Shoes? Fountain Pens? Or even to eat meat? I think you know that I’d reply, no. What was my fault? Purposely clinging to the excess and refusing to offer it up to God. In the pursuit of truth, I admit to many a time of pulling my covers to my chin and looking at my bookshelves with glee. Then justifying myself to myself: “I’ve given up enough. Books aren’t bad, especially mine! God is happy enough. He’s fine. I’ve been good.”

After I was hit with a metaphorical brick I talked to God about it and asked forgiveness. After I removed several books from my shelves, something wonderful happened even following the rush of easy-breathin’ at surrender, that rush of “Wow, I don’t need those books”: I became tight for cash. I posted the books on Amazon.com and talked to God again, citing His faithfulness and gratitude for what He’d do.

That very day I raked in a nice amount as one textbook sold within a minute or less, two others sold an hour later, and a fourth the next day. Only a couple more are left! Is God going to hand me cash every time I surrender? Heh. I wish. I consider this quick sale not only a clear answer and provision, but a miracle. OK, more on my view of miracles another day…

I’m glad that books are still a part of my year, even if I won’t been reading one while eating fried chicken for another six months. Now I know, in my head, that I should continue praying for God to reveal my un-surrendered excess – but even with the smooth assurance that accompanied the release of the books…it’s a little freaky.

What if He asks me to give up my favorite color? Or music?! (*mind races at the thought of Iron & Wine, Bon Iver, & The Strokes*) *gasp*

Guess it’s still difficult the second time around!

 

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