When we lost our second baby to miscarriage, I remember sitting in the window seat of our red brick home, looking over the streetscape of my city. Chin on knees, hugging ankles, seeing but not seeing. Black, empty, confused.
Hubby put his big, warm hand on my shoulder, sat in front of me and rested his forehead against my own.
“What can I do?” he whispered.
“What will help you feel better?”
This is what I said…
“I want to go shopping.”
Yep, that’s really what I said. And I did. I went to an expensive, designer shop and bought an expensive, designer top, and felt a surge of something other than intense grief – for about two minutes. I don’t think I ever understood why I thought that exercise would be helpful (I don’t even own the top anymore).
If you’ve been following my blog you will know that I made a New Year’s resolution that I’m taking super seriously. Since January 1 I have not bought any new clothes and I have committed to this challenge until the end of the year. Op shops and markets are my shopping malls!
For the first two months, I dived in and spent lots of time and energy bagging bargains, impressing myself with the brands and styles I’d managed to find. But at the beginning of March, and throughout (marking the first quarter of my 2017 challenge), I re-evaluated.
What did I gain from buying more clothing for my already-full wardrobe? Why did the pleasure fade so quickly, even when I was sticking to this whole frugal/ethical shopping concept?
So I tried something different. This month I haven’t bought ANY clothes, new or second-hand. It’s been a fast, if you like. Sure, I’ve looked, been tempted. But something has compelled me to refrain.
And the result is stillness in this unexpected place. I’ve wandered into a cathedral of peace that I didn’t expect to find here. Like a park in a bustling city. Like a prayer in a crisis. Like a smile at a funeral.
In Shauna Niequist’s book Present over Perfect, she suggests that we all have a drug, something we use to self-medicate the pain of living, to escape or avoid.
“Most of us are trying to fill a wound, turning up the volume to drown out a song that’s been haunting us all our lives.”
She has been in a process of handing over her drug. For her, it’s the hustle, filling every moment with to-dos. I’m still discovering what it is for me, but I know now that part of it is things. Clutter like clothes that are of no more use to me in the lens of eternity than a raincoat on a goldfish.
“The simplicity feels spacious, and inspiring, like I can draw a clean breath,” Shauna writes.
“The ambient noise of my life gets quieter when there’s less stuff in my life, and fewer decisions to make about that stuff. And in the newfound silences is space for connection, rest, listening, learning.”
It’s all about identifying the idols (the drugs) and replacing them with Jesus.
“Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires, senseless shopping and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived.”
– Colossians 3:5-7
I added that bit about senseless shopping. Really, it’s summed up in greed and evil desires and even lust – depending on our motivations. Other verses say that our God is jealous of our time and energy. He wants all of us, because He knows what’s best for us. When we come into relationship with Him, the chains of the world fall to the ground. We just have this uncanny ability of picking them up and locking them in place again!
So there you have it: what I’ve learnt this month from my no-new-clothes New Years resolution. Who’d ‘a’ thunk so much could be gleaned from a seemingly innocuous little habit like fashion shopping?!