When my baby got ahold of my  Kindle Touch and managed to purchase Jen Hatmaker’s new book 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess for me, I decided to take it as a divine nudge instead of a $9 mistake.

It was a good call.

7 is Hatmaker’s story of trying to break free from our collective me-first mindset by fasting from the things in our culture–and in her own life–that she saw as being “too much.” She identified 7 areas of blatant excess–food, clothes, possessions, media, waste, spending, stress–and she set about intentionally fasting from these things, devoting one month to each:

Seven months, seven areas, reduced to seven simple choices. I’m embarking on a journey of less. It’s time to purge the junk and pare down to what is necessary. Seven will be an exercise in simplicity with one goal: to create space for the Kingdom of God to break through.

I think I live a pretty simple life: I’m not that into material things, I’m not too stressed out, I only own 10 pairs of shoes. We have 4 kids and we’re still in our little starter house. We have one bathroom. Our life is not “excessive”–not by suburban American standards. And that’s Hatmaker’s point: we’ve become accustomed to the excess.

Hatmaker says she wrote this book like a diary, or a blog. She recorded each month of her experiment in real time, as she lived it. “To discover what matters to you,” she says, “take it away and see where the chips actually fall.” In 7, we’re watching those chips fall in real time. Many observations made me laugh out loud; some made me wince. Like this one:

We are far from Jesus’ original vision; the whole enterprise would be unrecognizable to our early church fathers. The earth is groaning, and we’re putting coffee bars in our thirty-five-million-dollar sanctuaries. Just because we can have it doesn’t mean we should. I marvel at how out of place simple, humble Jesus would be in today’s American churches.

Ouch.

Now might be a good time to mention that for the past 5 years, my husband has worked for our city’s largest megachurch. He runs the network of coffee shops at the main campus and its satellite locations.

Sooooo…you can see why there was plenty in this book to make me uncomfortable, right? But it’s a good kind of discomfort, I think.

Hatmaker says a key reason she embarked on her 7 project was to prepare for her future. She’s 35, her kids are still young and moldable, the bulk of her ministry is before her. She wants to be ready.

This. is. me.

I’ve told you how 2011 felt like a year of preparation, a year of clearing the runway.  I am expectantly looking towards the future, and I want to be ready for what’s in store. I’ve been scanning the horizon of my life to see what’s holding me back, to see how I’m still holding myself back with misplaced priorities and wasted energy. And when Jen Hatmaker says she’s breaking free of the excess in her life to prepare for a fruitful future, I am paying attention.

7 is a book about repentance, but it’s also enormously hopeful. Hatmaker says that “we’re so conditioned to being the problem that we’ve forgotten that we are actually the answer,” and that there is hope for us yet:

A stirring is happening within the Bride. God is awakening the church from her slumber, initiating a profound advancement of the kingdom. Please, don’t miss it because the American Dream seems a reasonable substitute.

Reading 7 was a little uncomfortable, a little chastening. But watching somebody else shake lose of their stuff is inspiring. It makes me want to keep going, searching out the things in my own life that are holding me back and dealing with them. It makes me expectant. It helps me loosen my grip a little more on my own stuff, so I can be the blessing to another.

I’m hopeful for my family, and I remain hopeful for the church.

Hatmaker concludes by saying, “We know something new is coming; we recognize the winds of change…”

Yeah, you and me both, sister.

Have you read 7, or anything else by Jen Hatmaker? Share your thoughts in comments.

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