Lessons from a Clothes Shopping Fast

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

Putting sin to death was more unwieldy than I'd expected. In fact my brain started to concoct unlikely scenarios in which I'd simply have to buy new clothes. After all, what if someone died? It would be disrespectful, I reasoned, to wear just any old thing from my closet to a funeral (or substitute wedding, baptism, Ground Hog's Day celebration).

Another one of my favorite excuses was predicated on the stewardship of my chronically injured feet. Were I to accidentally come across some fantastic shoes, potentially therapeutic shoes, it might actually border on irresponsible not to buy them. I thought a deep lavender might be nice. Clearly, I could get creative with these excuses.

To top it off, preexisting fashion issues—with which I'd never before had a problem—began to feel entirely unmanageable. For example, I suddenly could not deal with the fact that my "granny panties" rode up my back a good four inches higher than my lone pair of plain blue jeans, the way they'd always done. Realizing there was nothing I could do about it, I eventually decided that the cost of discipleship, for me, included sporting unsightly undergarments.

Somehow, with Sarah's encouragement, I managed to press on. Thankfully, after a few months the rollercoaster ride of weird fantasies, bargaining, and angst finally gave way to acceptance.

Needs and Wants

Once I'd adjusted to the new way of living it actually did feel freeing, as Sarah had promised. I began to feel a joyful liberation as I passed by the stores where I used to shop. Specifically, I noticed that I was no longer driven by the desperate worry, What if they've got something fantastic in there right now, possibly lime green with cute white polka dots, that I don't even know about? I began to see how I'd acted like the proverbial Pavlovian dog, salivating and responding on cue, at the signal of each Target, Marshalls, and TJMaxx logo.

Free, Sarah and I learned to distinguish between needs and wants. Though there were plenty of clothes we still wanted, we were both surprised by how few we actually needed. In the absence of the frantic hunt to find the shirt, or sweater, or shoes that I really needed, I began to become aware of how blessed I already was. Sarah was three months into our experiment when she reached her icy cold hands into her coat pockets to discover she'd lost a glove. It was her first real need. Three months! It seems hard to believe that a year ago I'd actually thought that the pricey striped socks I'd found online, matching several of my favorite outfits, qualified as a genuine need.

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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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