Month of Misery: The Aftermath


Well, I made it! I know some of you were worried that I might not survive my four-week challenge in my air-conditioned, middle class gated community home, with a refrigerator full of groceries and the rest of my assorted first world comforts. But I did! Whew!

If you aren’t familiar with my little self experiment, you can read about it here. Essentially, I challenged myself not to purchase anything new or eat out for one month. I did have a couple of social engagements that were pre-planned, and purchased a birthday gift for my dad and a friend, but other than those exclusions, I tried to go cold turkey.

Here’s what this experience has brought to the surface:

My nature is to rebel in the face of law and rules. If anyone doubts this aspect of fallen human nature, just try something like this: pick something that is part of your daily lifestyle, a source of comfort and pleasure, and then yank it away. It doesn’t take long for your brain to start building a case against your decision. A darn good case, I might add.

Aww, come on. It’s no big deal.

No one is going to be angry with you.

There’s nothing wrong with it!

You’ve had a hard day. It would be so much easier if . . . 

And then, after some time has passed, the voice gets angrier and more indignant.

I don’t even have to do this.

You’re not the boss of me.

It’s just a freakin taco!

Or maybe that was just me.

It’s my own personal and raw example of the Law. How God let it remain so that we might be constantly aware of our sinful nature, and our total inability to keep it, and rely fully, deeply, and gratefully on the finished work of Christ and His incredible grace.

I am not saying that shopping at Target or dining out are sins. But I have been reminded that they are lesser things. And how easily and frequently I am satisfied with the lesser thing.  In the absence of shopping and dining out, there is always Netflix, Pinterest, Blogs, Twitter, and you know the rest. The take away? How much time do I spend satisfying the gaping yaw of dissatisfaction with temporary and shallow things? Too much.

Even this small, temporary law I did not keep. There were two evenings where circumstances seemed to overwhelm my sense of “control” and I thew up my hands and said, “Burgers. Now.” I don’t feel shame over those instances I was getting through, and there is always, always grace. But thank goodness we’re talking about Taco Bell and Target, and not drugs, alcohol, gambling or sex. I’d like to learn this lesson on these entry level distractions.

I’d be a terrible addict. It would cost me too much.

I wish I had something amazing and profound to share with you about this little experiment. Alas, the angel Gabriel did not appear to me in my living room. (Which is a good thing since I’m pretty sure his wingspan would make a better door than a window between me and The Goldbergs.)

The truth is, there are parts of me that are still toddling along. My body is thirty-nine, and sometimes I think my brain is eighty, but there are parts of my spirit that are still immature. That is the sense I got from the Lord during this process, like the expression on His face was that of watching a toddler spin around giggling and then run into walls trying to recover.

Someday that cute chubby toddler will figure out that it’s the fun spinning part that makes her stumble and crash into things. But in the meantime, Dad watches and winces and baby-proofs the room.

Someday I will figure out that it’s the fun part of shopping, eating and otherwise entertaining myself that leaves me a bit dizzy and running into walls of dissatisfaction. All in due time. I feel His patience, love and grace.

Someday that part of me will be grown up enough to leave those lesser things behind and eat at the adult’s table; to eat and drink of loving God with all my heart, soul and strength, and loving my neighbor as myself. Like, in real time. With my actual body.

And that’s where this month of “misery” has left me–being more aware than ever of my weakness, my dependence, and the ways I self medicate. I hope that is will also leave me more compassionate for others’ versions that maybe don’t involve Target or Taco Bell.

If not, just smack me with a chicken burrito.


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