What we have is enough…and more
If we lack anything, it is the
To enjoy what we already possess.
Last night, I had a panic about our moses basket.
We had been given a beautiful basket by a friend but for some reason, yesterday, I was suddenly anxious that it wouldn’t be appropriate. What if the mattress was too old and therefore not firm enough? Did we even have the right bedding to go in the basket? Were we supposed to be using those sleeping bag things or blankets or both? The list of questions in my mind spiralled endlessly.
Similarly, a few weeks ago I had a panic about the ‘coming home’ outfit from the hospital. We live in a ridiculously and extravagantly generous community and have been given more baby outfits than one tiny child can ever possibly wear, some brand new and still in their wrapping, ranging from tiny baby all the way up to about 12 months. But I was suddenly overcome by the fear that we had nothing suitable for our poor naked daughter to wear.
You could simply blame such irrational thinking on being heavily pregnant. But I think there is something much deeper going on. I think what I am actually afraid of is much bigger and much more consuming: I am afraid that I do not have enough.
In her book, The Soul of Money: Transforming Your Relationship with Money and Life, Lynne Twist identifies this condition as something she calls scarcity.
“For me, and for many of us, our first waking thought of the day is "I didn’t get enough sleep." The next one is "I don't have enough time." Whether true or not, that thought of not enough occurs to us automatically before we even think to question or examine it. We spend most of the hours and the days of our lives hearing, explaining, complaining, or worrying about what we don't have enough of... Before we even sit up in bed, before our feet touch the floor, we're already inadequate, already behind, already losing, already lacking something. And by the time we go to bed at night, our minds are racing with a litany of what we didn't get, or didn't get done, that day. We go to sleep burdened by those thoughts and wake up to that reverie of lack... This internal condition of scarcity, this mind-set of scarcity, lives at the very heart of our jealousies, our greed, our prejudice, and our arguments with life.”
We live in a culture that constantly – in both obvious and not so obvious ways – tells us that we do not have enough. Most obviously, this applies to our relationship with wealth and material possessions. We simply do not have enough money. We do not have enough stuff. We need the latest, the newest, the most expensive model of just about everything. And we are told this every day from every angle. But, more subtly, this way of thinking filters down into the way we think about other things too: We do not have enough confidence to do that; we do not have enough patience to refrain from shouting at our children; we do not have enough time to invest in the relationships that matter.
I think this way of thinking must make Jesus really sad.
In Twist’s book she describes the remedy to scarcity as “the surprising truth of sufficiency.” Sufficiency is not a set amount of anything; it is “an experience, a context we generate, a declaration, a knowing that there is enough, and we are enough…it is a consciousness, an attention, an intentional choosing of the way we think about our circumstances.”
Jesus takes this even further. In the economy of the kingdom, the remedy for scarcity, for thinking that we do not have enough and are not enough, is not sufficiency but abundance. Our God is stupidly generous. He is our provider and he delights in being so. In Beautiful Outlaw, John Eldridge draws attention to the first miracle of Jesus as listed in John’s gospel: turning water into wine at a wedding. This is a miracle of extravagant, abundant and (quite frankly) unnecessary generosity. Eldridge explains that Jesus produces the equivalent of 682 litres of wine. That’s 908 bottles. And this is at the end of the wedding. Presumably the party was going to tail off quite soon - or at least it was until Jesus provided an excessive amount of booze – but now it is party time all over again. 908 bottles’ worth of party. And this is “the first of the signs through which [Jesus] revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.” (John 2:11)
What is it exactly that the disciples believed at this point? That Jesus liked to party? That he was a miracle-maker? A problem-solver? I have no idea what they were thinking, but something about this outlandish gesture of generosity gets their attention. They start, in some way, to put their trust in him, to believe that, maybe-just maybe, he is who he says he is. He is God. And he is the God who loves to give gifts to his people. He is the God who longs to look after them and be trusted by them. He is the God whose deepest lament is that his people have forgotten who he is (Jeremiah 2:32, 18:13-15) and started to trust in anything, everything, else apart from Him.
Much later on in John’s gospel, Jesus reminds his disciples of his trustworthiness. He is about to leave them. He is about to go to the cross and die and he needs them to know that he can be trusted. He is who he says he is. The sorrow of this difficult and confusing conversation is (understandably) too much for the disciples. They are filled with fear and dread about their precious Jesus leaving and, when Jesus tries to reassure them that he is going ahead of them in order to prepare the way for them, they start to panic:
“Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”
Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”
Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.”
Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me?”
In my mind – and without wanting to superimpose too much onto scripture – there is deep sadness in Jesus’ reply to Philip: “Don’t you know me…even after I have been among you such a long time?” I imagine Jesus locking eyes with his friend and gently saying, Do you still not trust me? Even after all you’ve seen? Even after all the provision I’m made for you? Even after the feeding of multitudes, the calming of storms, the steadiness of me being with you; even after all that, you still don’t trust me.
This morning, as I reflected on my moses basket panic, I felt God ask me the same question: why don’t you trust me?
Mark Scandrette raises the same question in his reflections about how we really, practically live out the teaching of Jesus in an age where His commands have become counter-cultural and seemingly nonsensical. It does not make sense to not be anxious about anything (Matthew 6:25). There seems like a very great deal to be afraid of (John 14:27), and we feel the overwhelming need to cling to what we have rather than be generous to others (Luke 12:33, 16:9, Matthew 6:19-20).
And yet, we like Philip, must make a decision. We must “shed our sense of scarcity” (Practicing the Way of Jesus: Life Together in the Kingdom of Love p.140) and instead choose to trust in the abundant provision of a loving, heavenly Father who knows our every need and longs for us to ask Him to fulfil them. Scandrette warns “if we don’t make conscious choices about our relationship to money and possessions, the forces of a dominant culture will tend to make those choices for us.” (p.144) The dominant force of this culture tells me that I need a new moses basket. I probably need two moses baskets actually. Just in case.
But the Way of Jesus is not the way of culture. Jesus invites us to trust. His is an invitation to live in God’s abundant provision regardless of whether we actually have plenty or not. An invitation to trust that He is enough. His grace is more than we need – not just for our material wellbeing but for our emotional and spiritual wellbeing too. Thus, today’s small step is a response to that invitation: to stop worrying about what we do not have, or might not have, and instead delight in the simple pleasure of enjoying all that we already possess.