On Giving Up Clothes for Lent

This is sadly NOT what my closet looks like. <br> Image from Creative Commons: Rubbermaid
This is sadly NOT what my closet looks like. (img src: Creative Commons, Rubbermaid)

I gave up clothes for Lent.

Of course I’m not wandering around naked until Easter, but I am not buying anything new during this season. Why? Because buying clothes during Lent would only serve to parade my excess.

I just finished reading Jen Hatmaker’s Interrupted*, which is the kind of book I end up highlighting nearly half of because it is JUST SO GOOD. One of the chapters that stood out gave statistics on global wealth disparity that are basically mind-boggling:

– Of the six billion people on planet earth, about 1.2 billion live on twenty-three cents a day.
– The wealthiest one billion people average seventy dollars a day.
– If you make thirty-five thousand dollars annually, you are in the top 4 percent.
– If you make fifty thousand dollars annually, the top 1 percent.

“Brand America is in trouble. I ask you humbly: can you see when Americans say democracy, world hears GREED? What seems like basic freedom to us sounds like vast consumption to everyone else… We appear indulged and entitled and oblivious to global crises and our contribution to the disparity.”

Our family is in the top 1% of wealthy people on the planet. I can barely process that. I know that as an American I am rich, but living in a town rife with Wall Street brokers I can start to believe the lie that I am poor.

I have a monthly clothing budget, because (1) clothes eventually wear out and sometimes I need new ones and as I’ve told you before (2) I love pretty, new things. My budget is reasonable, but it is ultimately still a luxury. I have plenty of wearable, decent clothes in my closet to finish out the winter season and take me into spring. But buying something new gives me that little rush. It makes me excited about what’s in my wardrobe.

On top of that I am a Myers-Briggs ENFP (emphasis on the “F” for “feeling here) personality type and a maximizer, which ultimately means I own too many clothes and hang on to some for far too long because of sentimental value or the promise that “I might need them someday.”

Basically, I could do with a little more sacrifice in this department.

I already give ten percent of my income to my local church, and support a few other organizations locally and globally who are doing great, life-changing work. But since those things are already taken into consideration in my monthly household budget, giving does not always feel like a financial stretch. It is just what we have learned to do.

Last month after considering that Lent is not just a season for putting off the old, but also putting on the new, I started asking: What if during Lent instead of buying new clothes I don’t really need, I used that money to benefit those who are struggling with far greater challenges that I am, or those who have less? What if I gave what I would have spent on myself in order to improve the life of others?

I can feel myself teetering on the edge of doing a full wardrobe inventory to see how much I am really hoarding. I have not counted up the number of clothing items I own because I have not really wanted to know, and then feel guilty. (Sidenote: If you want to avoid the urge to pare down, DO NOT read Hatmaker’s Interrupted follow-up, 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess*) For now, giving up new clothes for Lent is a small step towards the simpler, more generous life I really want to be living.

Did you give anything up for Lent? Is there something you’ve been thinking about sacrificing so that others can live with more?

*disclosure: affiliate link

5 thoughts on “On Giving Up Clothes for Lent

  1. I entirely blame mom. She taught me how to hoard. Now that we’re gone- she’s finally purging the house- but seriously, I still own/wear clothing from 9th grade. Aka 7 years ago. I’m totally with you on loving new things… but I know I don’t need anything!

  2. It’s been a crazy year so when I was asked what I was giving up for Lent on Ash Wednesday , I didn’t have an answer. Would I give up some kind of food or drink? Would I try to do something for the 40 days that I don’t normally do? For a long time now, I’ve been praying daily for God’s direction in even the little things and wasn’t feeling that what I was thinking had God’s blessing. At the Ash Wednesday evening service at my church, I was quietly singing ‘Just As I Am’ and these words hit me “Just as I am, though tossed about, with many a conflict, many a doubt.” but not in the way you’d think. I had a very strong urge to speak to one of my adult children about his doubts. I suddenly felt moved by the Holy Spirit that the thing I need to give up for Lent is my fear of talking to my son about my faith and his. He’s really done a 180 in his faith in the past 10 years. In 2005 he asked for a study Bible for Christmas to use during a year-long study he was doing. Since then, he has changed from being active in a church in the town he lived in to now not even being willing to attend worship with our family when he is home for a visit. It has been on my heart more than anything else but I’m afraid if I say the wrong thing, I’ll lose communication with him completely.

    So then while I drove home from the Ash Wednesday service, I was having a conversation with God about my fear and I was convicted that I will be okay no matter what happens. I’ve been concentrating on living Philippians 4:11-13 this year. It says: “…for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”

    The icing on the cake was listening to the sermon the following weekend about leaving a legacy. I’m fortunate enough to have learned that I was put on earth to teach kids about Jesus and his love and friendship. How could I be so afraid that I can’t talk to my son to find out what’s going on to cause his doubt in the faith I brought him up in? This is my legacy. If he or I died tomorrow, that would be my biggest regret. So I praise God for giving me the courage I need. Now I just need to have the patience to see what the outcome will me.

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