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Lessons from a Clothes Shopping Fast

Distinguishing between needs and wants—and why it's important to our souls.

A few years ago I received an e-mail from an old friend. Sarah explained that she'd recently decided to purge her home of unwanted clothing and other items.

"It's shameful," she confessed. "Talk about stuff! I kept thinking about Jesus' caution about not storing up treasures on earth. I made a personal commitment not to purchase any more clothing for myself for one year. So far it feels good … and freeing."

I was intrigued. Though I'd always known Sarah to be a person of integrity, the random act of discipleship had surprised me. After all, Sarah wasn't some communal-living Jesus-hippy. She wasn't one of those ring-nosed, lock-headed radicals. Rather, my friend was a minivan-driving mom, with grown children, living out what she thought was right.

Truth be told, Sarah was living the way I wanted to be living. Before her e-mail had landed in my inbox, something in my gut—some would call wantedconscience—had already begun to tug. For months I'd been bothered by the obvious fact that, although I had all the clothes I needed, certainly more than I could cram into my drawers, I still kept buying more. And although I'd even had a sense that I was being called to embrace this kind of 21st century "fast," refraining for a period from buying new clothes, I hadn't yet gathered the resolve to begin.

Sensing that Sarah's weird spiritual discipline might have my name on it, I cautiously entertained the possibility of joining her.

As far as spiritual practices go, I reasoned, it shouldn't be that hard. Because technically, it's doing nothing. After thinking about it for a day, I decided I could probably do nothing. So I replied to Sarah's e-mail.

"I'm kind of nervous to say this. Okay, really nervous. I want to do this year with you. Can we be Clothing Buddies?"

then I quickly tapped send before I could change my mind.

Detox

What Sarah and I quickly discovered was that though our wills were committed to the clothing fast, it would take a few weeks for our hearts and minds to catch up. Thinking back, I consider those difficult days of withdrawal as consumer detox. Spiritually speaking, they were sin detox! For instance, Sarah reported that while grocery shopping she'd been seized with the odd overwhelming urge to buy colored tights. Since I'd recently coveted grocery store clothing myself, I completely understood. Sarah and I were able to support each other by e-mail. When she had a wedding to attend, she ran her clothing options past me for my thumbs-up approval. When I was tempted to buy a totally cool t-shirt, I e-mailed Sarah to report how stinky it was I didn't get to.

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Margot Starbuck

Margot Starbuck, award-winning writer and speaker, is a graduate of Westmont College and Princeton Theological Seminary. A TCW regular contributor and columnist, Margot speaks regularly on discipleship, justice, and living love in the world God loves. Connect with Margot on Facebook, Twitter, or at MargotStarbuck.com.

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