Book Review: 7

An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess
by Jen Hatmaker
B&H Books, 2012

Sometimes a woman must make a drastic change to achieve her desired ends. Jesus didn’t advocate any less. When he saw the crowds following him, he sat down on the mountainside and taught them the differences between what they had heard and the soul-killing reality of their sinful situation. “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell” (Matthew 5:27-30, ESV).

Paul offers a distant echo when he writes the church in Corinth, “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control,lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified” (9:24-27, ESV).

On our way to destruction, we assuage our consciences by telling ourselves that Jesus didn’t literally mean we should cut off our right hand if it causes us to sin, he didn’t literally mean that we should pluck out an eye if it causes us to sin. Oh, no, he simply means that we should take the dangers of sin and Hell seriously. All the while, he actually means that we must do something drastic. Or else.

I admire Jen Hatmaker’s willingness to do something drastic. She looked at her life and saw sinful excess and indulgence where she wanted to see conformity to the image of Christ. She saw areas in which Christ was not magnified, he was not supreme, he did not rule, and she wanted to repent. “7” is Hatmaker’s process to discipline herself for the purposes of godliness. Seven fasts in seven months to cut away excess and indulgence in the areas of food, clothing, possessions, media, waste, spending, and stress.

Written in a daily journal format, Jen shares what she learns about herself and how deep her love for possessions and comforts really goes. She also learns a lot about her husband, children, and closest friends. Sometimes funny, sometimes serious, Hatmaker is very easy to follow; she writes in an easy-going, honest, conversational style.

During the seven months, she often blamed “7” for the out-of-the-ordinary things she was doing. Nevertheless, by the seventh month, some of the out-of-the-ordinary became more common and she didn’t want life to go back to “normal.” God changed her desires. One of the most important skills Hatmaker learned through this seven-month experience is the ability to deny herself. As she concludes the book, she writes that fasting has become a more normal, welcome occurrence in her life.

I can recommend 7 without reservation, but I need to mention a couple of things. First, Hatmaker’s style is not particularly beautiful; she doesn’t have “a way with words.” Her style is more stripped down, not gritty or crude, but conversational. She is not too inspiring or preachy; rather, she is recording an experience. Some women love books like this, while others simply do not. Second, during the seventh month, Hatmaker fasted stress. To do so, she daily practiced the “Seven Sacred Pauses” and weekly observed the Sabbath. Some will see the daily pauses as a dangerous monastic practice. I disagree. Hatmaker simply stopped what she was doing during the day so that she could pray. Many times, the quiet bell reminder to pray interrupted a stressful moment and reminded her to cast her cares on Christ. She used various Psalms to guide her prayers as she prayed for people, situations, and the world. I see only benefit in disciplining oneself to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). Finally, thanks to the US’ current political climate, some conservative evangelicals will take issue with Chapter Five: Waste. Actually, let me rephrase that: Some will undoubtedly take issue with the entire book because the term “social justice” and the color green have been maligned and stripped of every good meaning they ever enjoyed. We must redeem them because, in Jesus’ name, they are ours.

Read 7 if you’re ready for the challenge to cast off American excess.

[By the way, clicking the book’s cover will take you to Amazon. If you make a purchase after clicking through from my site, I will receive a small percentage of your purchase price…a few pennies really. But I greatly appreciate those pennies.]

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