When my oldest was a wee thing, I got involved in our parish youth ministry.  This was at least partly motivated by the selfish interest of finding local babysitters.  Training us was the Director of Lay Ministry, Dave O’Brien.  This is one of the reasons that my short stint on the Youth Ministry Team was so significant in my faith life.  Dave was one of those people who decided long ago that God mattered most and he jumped into this point of view with both feet.  He strives to live his faith radically, choosing extreme simplicity for himself so he can share more with others.  His sparse closet could inspire a new reality show on TLC:  Extreme Simplicity

While my life is more moderate, I will be forever touched by the challenge of trying to live a more radically Christian life.  Lent is the time that this is most in my heart.  One Lent, our dishwasher broke.  It was small and old.  “Well, you need a dishwasher!” my mother commented in a practical, American, upper-middle class way.  I stopped for a moment.  My mother never had a dishwasher until after she was married, but I don’t remember not living with a dishwasher.  “No, no one NEEDS a dishwasher.”  I realized.  “Even having clean water pumped into my house is a luxury.”

And so, we washed the dishes by hand until Easter.   Now I’m not trying to pat myself on the back for washing a few dishes.  I do realize that owning a dishwasher is a luxury.  But it makes me think.  What else is a luxury that we take for granted?  Many of us have redefined this through the recent economic crisis out of necessity.  But I challenge you to take it to the next level, or even, to the extreme.

How little can you live on for 40 days?  Can you go to the wilderness?  Can you live on bugs and wild honey?  Well, maybe not.  But can you live without cable TV, movies, date nights, take-out, babysitters, haircuts, gym memberships, dry cleaning, bottled drinks, desserts, and prepared foods?  Can you turn down the thermostat, cut the grocery budget in half, reduce your water and energy bill, stop wearing makeup, buying clothes, toys, etc?  Can you try for 40 days to see what it is like to struggle to pay the bills?

I challenge you to cut your spending down to the leanest possible version of your household you can manage.  After paying the rent or the mortgage, and basic medical expenses, scrutinize every expenditure.   If you need a new notepad, consider the poor immigrants who washed and ironed butcher paper from their meats in order to make notebooks for their children.  If you need a razor, grow a beard.  Perhaps we won’t stop Becky’s ballet class or Joesph’s piano lessons.  Each of us will need to make specific decisions.  Take it to the Ultimate, worthy of a reality TV special, and do it with a heart worthy of our Lord.  If you accept this challenge please tell me about it.  I am anxious to hear all the ways we can sacrifice and the spiritual fruit that will result.

PS – Dave is still active in ministry and you can read his blog here

Copyright 2012 Kate Daneluk