The following is an excerpt taken from an article in the New York Times by Carl Richards, entitled: “New Rule: All Purchases Subject to a 7-Day Mental Quarantine.”:
My wife and I are setting up a customs screening station in our driveway. No, we’re not starting an international airport. And it’s not for solicitors, strangers or gift-bearing guests.
It’s for us and our stuff.
From now on, before anything new comes into the house, resident buyers will need to answer a series of questions. How much did it cost? Are you replacing something you already own? Why do you think it’s amazing? And if it’s food, are you sure you’ll eat it?
We’re doing this because stuff is taking over our home. And right now we’re in the process of getting rid of things we never use. We’re organizing, sorting and throwing things out from one end of the house to the other. And it feels. So. Good.
You know what I’m talking about, right? That moment of sheer relief when that thing you no longer need or even really want finally leaves your home. But here’s the catch: Throwing stuff away is only half the battle. You have to stop stuff from coming into the house in the first place.
Consider, for example, what customs might have said about the super precision gyroscope with gimbals (??) that I bought more than a year ago and used precisely once: Cost? $250. Is it replacing something? No. Why is it amazing? Because of the gimbals! But $250 for gimbals? Denied.
Don’t get me wrong, the gyroscope is incredible. It works perfectly, so it’s not the gyroscope’s fault it sat around in a box for a year. It’s my fault for buying it in the first place. It never should have slipped through customs.
I recommend a stuff quarantine of seven days, particularly if we’re talking about anything that costs more than $50. Anything that you’re considering ought to sit in your head for at least a week, and you should test it out on your fellow customs officers. Look, I know that buying things feels good. So does tossing out stuff that you don’t use. But wouldn’t it feel so much better to spend that time and money on something you’ll actually use or enjoy instead?
The answer is not just to throw away the junk. The answer is the customs gate and the quarantine bin. Otherwise, if you’re not careful, the stuff you buy today will be the junk you throw away tomorrow.
Now, the spiritual application should be obvious. We all have “stuff” in our lives that we don’t need, and that in fact, may be hurting or hindering us from becoming all that God has called and created us to be. The point I really like about this story is this: it’s not just about what you get rid of in your life that benefits you – it’s also about what you don’t take in to your life. True repentance is not just about getting rid of the “old man”, old habits, old addictions, old stumbling blocks – it’s about replacing that stuff with new habits, new disciplines, new commitments – walking in the newness of life! (Rom 6:4).
Take the “7-day Mental Quarantine” challenge – pray long and hard about what you bring into your life, now that you have put off the old man and have been renewed in the spirit of your mind. Remember, Ephesians 4:22-24 teaches us that the next step is “putting on the new man.” And make sure that it’s not the “old man” in disguise.