Monday, February 6, 2012

The Battle of Excess

The last 8 months has been a spiritual journey for me that I have been praying for for years.  After a really growing time in high school and college, I felt like I went on spiritual cruise control for the next 6 or 7 years. There were moments of growth and closeness, but generally speaking, I was not vastly different faith-wise than in college.  I have prayed to grow, to gain wisdom as I got married and became a parent. And God answered has answered those prayers in many ways. But since God calling us to adoption and our journey of obedience, I have never experienced growth and revelation like this, so deep and so steady. 
I think at the root of it all has been the uprooting of my stronghold of my comfort. Not necessarily physically or financially, although that is a part of it. But more so, just my idea of what a comfortable life looks like. God has been showing me my idea of a comfortable life and his idea of a life surrendered is not the same.  Not in the way that following what God says means I sacrificially give up everything I like for a life of being painfully stripped of everything. That has been the most amazing part of the process, is that as I am stripped of things, it actually feels better, free-er, and like I am actually finding the purpose and the life I was made for.

So thus has begun the battle of excess.

I have realized that even tithing 10% and living "responsibly" (debt free, spending less than we make, house payment meeting the debt to income ratio, whatever) is not the definition of "Having life and having Life Abundantly" that Jesus was talking about. For the last 5 years (the first 2 of marriage not so much, because we were nearly living under the US poverty line on missionary raised support;)  we have lived comfortably.  From my point of view, it wasn't excess. But as God is doing this work in my heart... I am becoming more and more aware of the excess that has subtly worked its way into our life and I have justified, even spiritually, over the last several years.

If you make over 50,000 combined household income, we are in the top 1% richest people in the WORLD. Over 75,000? The Top .6%.  This is insane to me.  Just because there is always someone with more income, bigger house, more toys, nicer cars, doesn't mean I am not living in excess.

Being vulnerable here, I counted the amount of items in my closet (Shirts, coats, pants, jeans, dresses, skirts, sweaters, shorts, etc) and sadly the grand total came to 335.  I have had some of these clothes for 5 years or so, but mostly in the last 2-3.  If I spent an average of 25$ on each item that would be a total of $8,375.  Dresses,coats and jeans may raise up that average a little, so if I average at 35$ per piece that is $11,725. That means over the last several years, I have spent anywhere from 8-12,000 on clothes for ME. Just me. There are 3 other people in my family. 
The average congolese family makes about 75 cents per day.  Per year that would be 273$. That means on average, my clothing budget for 3 years would cost the average Congolese family 36 years to purchase. That is disgusting.

I guarantee you I am not going to get to heaven and wish I would have made sure to refresh my spring/summer wardrobe each year. 

The more I have been digging into God's word, I realize he is really serious about all of scripture- not just the easy ones to hear.  I'm pretty sure we are actually supposed to clothe the naked, feed the hungry, care for the orphans, come to the aid of the widow and the oppressed. This is not something that some Christians are supposed to do.  He even goes as far as to say he will separate those who did not feed him, clothe him, visit him, bring justice for him, and those will "depart because you did not know me".  Could it be, we get to know Jesus more intimately as we serve the "least of these"?
Tithing used to be the main idea for us, we tithed each month, we could check it off. We spent reasonably wise in ratio with our income, and we felt fine about "spending the other 90% responsibly".  But God did not tithe 10% of his love for us.  He poured it all out. He gave up everything.  
I got an iPad for Christmas, it was an unexpected gift and I was very thankful! John already had one and now I had my own! We went to church this week and I have been loving my iBooks app. I downloaded the Bible on it and it has awesome highlight and note taking features.  I serve in the morning at church so I walked into the service late and John was sitting there with his iPad on his lap and handed me mine to open to the scripture we were going through. Sheer panic struck my heart as disgust came over me in a way i have never experienced.  Here we sat in church with 1000$ worth of iPads on our two laps and 1000$ worth of phones in our pockets and probably wearing about 150$ or more each on our bodies.  Behind us sat a refugee family from Chad. A woman and her 5 kids who escaped Chad as their village got attacked.  She watched her husband machete-d as they fled.  She had acid of some sort poured on her body, and her face and hands bear those scars.  She only has a few non-functioning fingers remaining.  The contrast of it all was right there in front of me.  And I felt shame, sadness and disgust.  I did not feel like this was the life Jesus came to die for, this "abundant life".  No, she had the life abundant, she was praising the Lord with all her might, dancing, shouting, and I sat there with my 90$ jeans and our 500$ iPads.  
"Once our eyes are opened, we can't pretend we don't know what to do. God, who weighs our hearts and keeps our souls, knows what we know, and holds us responsible to act." Prov. 24:12

26,000 people will die of hunger today, tomorrow, and the next and this is my pantry...

Malaria is killing nearly 3000 African children per day. It is a preventable disease, all is takes is 2 dollars at a local pharmacy- no perscription needed. 2 dollars- that is their matter of life and death.

I have missed it. I have been losing the battle. Excess has taken over and closed my eyes to the true vision of the gospel.  No wonder Jesus said it is harder for a rich man to enter heaven than a camel to get through a needle.  That is impossible if you hadn't thought through the logistics of it...
With my mouth, I have said "Lord, Lord" but with my heart and finances, I have mostly said "me, me".
Well here is where the battle will turn.  God has impressed the plight of the orphan on my heart so deeply.  You can read more on that on my previous post here from September.  But I know God is asking big things of me, of us as a family.  My upcoming trip to Uganda I feel like God will further explain this in my heart, but I am not waiting until then.  By cutting our clothing budget for the next 4 months, we can send two more Ugandan children to school, purchase school supplies, Bible, mosquito net, etc.
  By cutting back our grocery, babysitting, and eating out/entertainment budget we will soon be ready to accept two referrals for our sweet children that will soon not be orphans! For the next 2 months we will be tight so that I can take over extra money for aid at the special needs orphanage, Amazima feeding ministry in the slums of Masese and the Canaans Childrens home  where we will be working in Jinja. Another awesome ministry that goes directly to orphans is International Voice of the Orphan if you are looking for places to get involved.

This is not about me, this is about how God can advance the kingdom when I actually give him the reins. 

Living in excess is the mirror image of the original sin of Adam and Eve.  They had everything. They did not "need" anything else! But yet, discontentment struck in their hearts as they thought, I wonder if God is holding back something better for us. I wonder if our lives will be better if I just have that one more thing.  
That sort of desire brings about our own destruction.  So here I am, on my own personal journey to really evaluate what God means in the Bible, what he is really asking of us. How he wants us to surrender our savings even to his kingdom.  

This has been a hard and wonderful journey of horrible stuff coming to the surface in my heart, but at the same time, it is so free-ing to be in a place where I am moving towards obeying and understanding God so intimately in all aspects of my life. 

If you are looking for books to read on this topic, please read Radical by david platt, Kisses from katie, or 7 by Jen Hatmaker. All have been the perfect storm of books as I have journeyed through matthew and John and studied what Jesus really calls on our life. Thanks for listening to my journey, as messy as it can be. 


  1. kylie - this was right on point and something i've been struggling with/journaling a lot about lately. Awesome.

  2. Loved this post, Kylie, and your vulnerability. The book Radical has really helped my heart learn what true contentment is. I have struggled with wanting out of this small house, and now with baby number 3 on the way with really wanting a mini-van. But, those things are just THINGS. They won't matter when I get to heaven. What matters is what we are able to DO by sacrificing our comforts. If we had bigger house and car payments, we would not be able to give and sponsor like we do. And I wouldn't trade those for anything. My favorite thing that you said is, "as I am stripped of things, it actually feels better, free-er, and like I am actually finding the purpose and the life I was made for." YES!!! That's how I feel!!! Love your heart. :)

  3. LOVE this post- thank you for sharing and speaking right into my heart!

  4. Echos from His Word that have been shaking the chambers of my own heart, Kylie. If you could see my journal... I appreciate your transparency.
    "Living in excess is the mirror image of the original sin of Adam and Eve...they thought, I wonder if God is holding back something better for us."

    Psalm 84:11, 16:2

  5. Love your heart Kylie.
    So excited to serve with you in Uganda!