I did it. I cancelled my Audible membership – at least for a year.
Since early 2020, Audible has been a steady companion of mine during home renovations, long walks, yard work, driving, and washing dishes. Its books have offered valuable insight for life, material for discussion in book clubs, and imaginative escapes during stressful seasons.
I can remember many times when I eagerly awaited the end of the month – for the moment when my new credit would be made available, when I could finally download the next instalment in Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series, that classic title on my bucket list, a textbook for class, or a new release recommended by a friend.
It’s been a great ride – so, why would I cancel such a good thing?
I have sometimes noticed what appears to be materialism in others – buying expensive things that seem to be unnecessary – repeatedly making purchases out of a feeling of emptiness that never seems to be filled. Yet, I’ve also come to see that I am materialistic in my own way – I never seem to have enough plants, rocks, and books! Others have teased me for collecting the first two, as they don’t seem to hold much practical utility. But, plants offer beauty, illustrate wisdom, and can improve their value over time. Rocks tell stories from the past – each of them unique, like people – not to mention that when polished, and placed in relish jars, they make great gifts or decorations on a bookshelf! And then books…well, as Solomon said, “Of making many books there is no end, and much study wearies the body” (Ecclesiastes 12:12).
Over the years I have constantly accumulated books. Shelf after shelf have been filled in my office, in my living room, in my bedroom. Many are given to me and given away to others. Some are purchased, and some are never read. Digitally, through Audible and Christianaudio, I have also accumulated gigabytes of audiobooks. My list of “Not Yet Started” titles has grown nearly as fast as my Wish List.
And the problem with such accumulation is that after a while, it begins to weigh on you. Your house becomes cluttered, and you worry about storage. Your items are valuable, and you worry about their security. And there’s that sinking feeling that you may never use the thing that you’ve purchased.
The more you have, the more you have to worry about – it’s true for cars and houses and jewelry and books.
As I’ve begun study and preach through the book of Nehemiah this year, I’ve noticed how clearly it models a process of change that believers go through. Looking at each chapter, one could identify steps of transformation:
They begin with repentance – admitting their problem, and then proceed to revision a more hopeful future. Next, they get to work rebuilding, and then need to come internal and external resistance. Finally, as they make progress, they begin to reflect and reevaluate before taking time to remember, rejoice, and produce ongoing reforms.
While I’m not preaching on this book to lead the church through a building program, I do hope that reading Nehemiah can offer us space to reflect on our lives – to evaluate what we are building in this year ahead. Though I am not calling for New Year’s Resolutions (it’s too late for that), I am personally embarking on a journey of transformation in which I will seek to live without something in each successive month.
Why would I do that? Is this needless self-sacrifice? Outdated asceticism?
No, I’d describe it as pruning. Making space in my life for new growth. Trimming some dead weight, or things that are actually harming me.
Years ago, I kicked what felt like an unhealthy addiction to TV by cutting it out for a month. Ever since then, it’s never been a big part of my life.
Lately, I’ve had a growing sense that I need to stop buying books for a year – for similar reasons. It has become an unhealthy habit – like impulse shopping, giving a temporary high. That means no more books for my personal studies, for study groups, or for simple pleasure. That also means cancelling my subscription to Audible. While other subscriptions were easier to cancel – Amazon Prime, TSN, and Christianaudio are just seasonal treats, receiving that monthly Audible credit had become quite a routine. In fact, it had begun to create anxiety – what book will I add, this month, to my ever-growing list of unread books?
And so, it has begun. A month without purchasing books. A month to begin enjoying what I already have – a practice that is integral to the intent of Sabbath – to cease from work, production and accumulation – to take pleasure what we’ve already been given. Perfect for my seventh year at Parkdale, my Sabbatical year. And already, there have been nice surprises this month. For one thing, I’ve started a study group using a free book, Multiply. And, wouldn’t you know it, I received a new book for my birthday this month too! (see below)
Though making cuts always hurts, we know that deep down, it’s for the best. Death leads to new life. Surrender leads to rest. Repentance to hope. I look forward to discovering how God will fill the space that this year’s disciplines will create!
23 Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. 24 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. 25 What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self?Jesus, Luke 9