|In our home, the fridge is perpetually full. Not so choked to the gills that it can’t let in light, but to the point where last week we decided there’s really no room to add pickle relish to our condiment collection, if that gives any indication.
The cause of this state of affairs goes back half a century, to shortly after my wife Janet’s parents divorced. As the story goes, her mom spent the next five or more years–Janet’s final years at home–alternating between working on her feet all day and collapsing from exhaustion asleep on the couch. There was no cooking, and there was no food in the fridge.
Janet never forgot the feelings of those days, of not having enough in the larder. She didn’t go hungry, they just ate out cheaply. But when a teenage girl comes home from drill-team practice, she’s ready for a hearty snack… and she maybe even craves something besides white bread and black tea for breakfast.
Years ago, I led a Sunday School class of adults through Richard Foster’s book Money, Sex & Power, (since re-titled The Challenge of the Disciplined Life: Christian Reflections on Money, Sex, and Power). I conducted a little ‘quiz’:
a) Looking back, did you have enough growing up? b) As a child, did you feel that you had enough?
a) Do you have enough now? b) Do you feel that you have enough?
You might try answering those questions for yourself…
To everyone’s surprise, the key determinant to whether or not these adults believed they have “enough” now was whether or not they felt they had enough as a child. The most glaring example was a man who was in a constant state of acquisitiveness. Discussing his ‘quiz’ answers, he explained that, even though his parents lived in an exclusive area and belonged to a sailing club when he was growing up, as a boy he never had as nice a boat as his peers and was sometimes teased about that. He could see looking back that he had more than the vast majority, but comparing himself to his sailing peers, he continually struggled with feeling he did not have enough and therefore couldn’t measure up. Reflecting on this “trigger”, he could see that the new home they were now building (without enthusiasm from his wife) was not out of any need for more space but a result of this feeling of relative childhood inadequacy, and a desire to never feel inadequate when entertaining peers, etc. It was a powerful revelation for our entire class, and an experience I’ve never forgotten, decades later.
Janet chuckles about her determination to keep our fridge constantly stocked; she fully recognizes what’s driving it. But she still does it anyway!
However, we did find one solution of sorts. We got a smaller fridge.
This is actually not a bad solution (and certainly cheaper than years of counseling!), as it at least tightens the boundaries on our weaknesses. We’ve also downsized our home a couple of times, and despite the hassles and decisions that it forces, we’ve felt that it’s a cleansing process, a chance to in some small way “throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles.” (Heb 12:1)
I must also say that Janet is unusually and beautifully generous. If a neighbor needs food, she shares above and beyond the request. No doubt she would do the same should a hungry person come by. (One problem, of course, is that they don’t. They don’t live near us–or, to put it more honestly, we don’t live near them. This is an ongoing struggle for me but one I’ve written about elsewhere.)
“How much is enough?” someone apocryphally asked the super-rich John D. Rockefeller. “Just a little more,” came the reply.
Can no greater good be done with our resources than to spend them on ourselves or horde them in our savings accounts? There’s a double tragedy of this “spirit of fear” — not only does it withhold good that could be done, but it also keeps us from discovering an incredible spirit of joy and satisfaction.
There has to be a place of enoughness in our lives.
And, in light of the gospel reports of Jesus not only feeding 5000 but then collecting 12 baskets full of leftovers, and of the disciples’ fishnets breaking from the overflow of the catch beyond both their needs and even their dreams, if we are to be Christ’s followers, there should be a place of more-than-enoughness in our lives.
Would I recognize this place of overflowing abundance if I saw it? More accurately, have I recognized it in those times and places when it has clearly entered my life? What would it mean to recognize abundance? How would it affect my choices? My outlook? My joy? My faith? The impact my life could have?
Clearly, there are times when abundance is staring me right in the face, and I’m just not paying attention.
In fact, all I have to do is open the door of my closet–or our fridge.
2 thoughts on “Enoughness”
I don’t have enoughness of what you have done! Missions is my real heart but I am presently caught in an age trap – I’m getting a young mind in an old body. I have always felt letdown when I have returned to the U.S. that people don’t really want to hear what I saw, did, or how it changed me. Give them a cute story or some trivial cultural difference, but don’t challenge their comfortable life. Where is the Great Commission in American Christian theology??
Thanks Stephen. I share your lament yet believe the responsibility is also on us to communicate well. Check out my new book, “After the Trip: Unpacking Your Crosscultural Experience” if you can and especially see the parts on creating and communicating “Picture Windows”. Kindly, Cory