Observations and Oddities

$32.20 per month

$32.20 per month.

This is an estimate of what I spend on diet soft drinks for my own personal consumption each month.

4 12 packs of cans at $2.50 each
12 20 ounce bottles purchased from a vending machine at $1.35 each
4 drinks ordered with restaurant meals a at $1.50 each

 I know.  It’s a lot.  I’m an admitted Diet Coke/Diet Mountain Dew addict.  It’s bad.  Really bad.  I am fully aware of how poor a choice this is for my health and that Diet Coke is capable of removing tarnish from century-old pennies and Diet Mountain Dew is helpful in dissolving mouse carcasses (or something just as disgusting but still along those lines), yet this knowledge has had little impact on my willingness to cut back my soda habit.

What has caused be to take a new look at my habit is my experience of reading a book called “7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess.” This book is by one of my favorite Christian authors and chronicles her nearly year-long experience with attempting to remove some of the excess in her life and the spiritual journey she took along the way.  The book moved me, and has made me start to think about the excess in my life.  The exercises the author (Jen Hatmaker, who from here on out I will simply refer to as “Jen” because her books make me feel like she is my actual friend) undertakes in the book are extreme, and she in no way implies that all readers should emulate her actions. She clearly states that this was her personal experience and everyone’s looks different.

A discussion of soft drinks is the first step in my version of the experience.  One of the excesses that Jen tackles in her book is food.  I’ll let you explore her book on your own if you’re interested in her approach, but mine is still somewhat undefined.  I can say that my food goal is something along the lines of simplifying and getting back to basics.  By simplifying I don’t mean switching to TV dinners and minute rice to simplify my effort, but to simplify what it is that is going into my body and the bodies of my family.  Kind of a whole foods/in defense of food ideology, if you will.

At first I felt a little guilty that my first step was more about health and not about anything spiritual, but I really felt like it was the right step for me. Lucky for me, God finds a way to teach you where you are.

You see, as I started this assessment of food excess in my life (just this week), I made the decision that my diet soda consumption had to stop, or at the very least decrease significantly.  So, over the last 4 days I have consumed only one diet coke. While most people’s thoughts would be along the lines of “Woo hoo!  Good for me! I’m on my way to kicking my bad habit,” mine went another way.

I often refer to my “need” for a diet coke. Soft drinks are a staple on my weekly grocery list. I visit vending machines with great regularity without a second thought about dropping $1.35 for a 20 ounce bottle full of chemicals I can’t even pronounce.  Then I realized that this manufactured need is just the tip of the iceberg of the excess in my life. It’s a small component of all the waste I allow in my life and the lack of awareness of the significance of my even my smallest actions.  I need water. I don’t need carmel color, citric acid and aspartame (caffeine, however is it’s own subject entirely- not to be covered here).

Tonight I took the time to look at the economic impact of my addiction- $32.00 a month!  Holy cow! For $32 a month I could sponsor a child in a third world country. For $32 month I could pay a needy neighbor’s water bill. Half of the world’s population lives on less than $2.50 a day- I spend half of that on diet sodas.

 I often say I wish I could do more to serve others, but my budget is limited.  Maybe the real issue is that I am too busy serving myself instead of authentically seeking ways to serve others.

And now I see that the first step wasn’t about Diet Coke at all.