Alright ladies, it’s confession time.
Something I have written about in the past and continue to struggle with now is my affinity for shopping. My husband and I aren’t exactly bazillionaires so I don’t go on crazy shopping sprees at high-end stores, but that’s part of the reason I’ve been able to excuse the problem for so long. The habit manifests itself in smaller, more subtle ways. For instance, every time I stroll into Target or run an errand at the mall, I can’t help but leave with some small token of my visit, something that I didn’t know I needed until I saw it.
I have managed to justify some of this behavior with the logic that I want to look good for my husband. He does, after all, appreciate it when I go out of my way to look nice for him. But that is really just a smoke screen for what is probably more like an addiction. I get an emotional boost from buying clothes for myself. I feel better when I look good.
But at the end of the day, this behavior really boils down to idolatry. I am finding satisfaction and confidence in something other than Christ. Rather than find my self-esteem in Christ, I find it in looking trendy. And rather then depending on God during difficult times, I sometimes use shopping as a coping mechanism. Like food, shopping can be something you turn to when you’re down, or even when you’re bored. And as many times as I’ve told myself to cut it off, it keeps coming back. There’s always some excuse for buying something that I “need.” Or, it;s on sale and it’s a “really great deal.”
This pattern has been a problem for awhile now, and I had actually started feeling defeated by it, until I realized something. One morning, out of the blue, it dawned on me, “I’m can fast from shopping for clothes for myself!”
You see, fasting is helpful because it enables you to form a habit of replacing an unhealthy behavior with a healthy one. However, what makes fasting particularly crucial is that it intentional directs you closer to God. If I have to go to Target or the mall for some reason, I pray ahead of time for discipline. When I feel tempted to go wander around some stores because I’m feeling down about myself, I look to God for strength and encouragement. Fasting is an intentional time of replacing the behavior. Instead of simply cutting the behavior out, which leaves a gap in your life to be filled by some other idol, you replace it with a relationship with God.
And to prove that, for me, this fast isn’t just about money, I actually have a gift card that I got for my birthday to one of my favorite stores, but while I fast for this month I am choosing not to use it. For me, it’s less about financial discipline and more about starving the idol of fashion in my heart. Just because the money is there doesn’t make the idol any less rooted in my heart. I aim to cut it off!
So I will be fasting from shopping for clothing, shoes, and accessories for the next month. I already asked my husband to hold me accountable, but I’m also sharing this with you now for the same purpose. My aim here is not to brag about the fact that I’m fasting but to help me stay honest, which is a lot easier when I know people are watching!
Finally, I’m also sharing about my fast because I want to encourage you to consider it as well. Many Christians only fast during Lent, but fasting is intended to be an integral part of the Christian life all throughout the year. It is a heart check that hedges against the idols in your life and helps you to keep focus on God. Practically speaking, fasting is also a great way to stop bad habits and create God honoring ones. Rather than simply say, “I’m going to stop this behavior,” set a goal for yourself, a limited amount of time. To many of us, a limited time period not only seems more manageable but provides us with a more concrete target to hit.
So whether you struggle with shopping, gossip, anger, drinking, or an unhealthy relationship with food, I encourage you to fast from the destructive behavior, especially if you’re like me and feeling a bit helpless about it. Set aside a period of time during which you will intentionally abstain from it and instead depend on the Lord. Then recruit some friends to hold you accountable. Test God it and see what He does! I’m happy to report that it’s been easier than I thought. When I go to Target I have to deliberately avert my eyes from the clothing section (which is sort of depressing to admit) but other than that I haven’t missed it! God is dealing with my idolatry, and I am learning to find greater satisfaction in Him than I did before.