Scarcity and abundance… words that radically change the ways I live and consider my life.
I’m blessed with abundance, but twist opportunity into anxiousness for control that shrinks possibility and the radical trust and letting go that abundant living requires.
I have a new job in a new place. Scarcity thinking edges in when events seem to hinge on “just the right…” as we look for a house, a time to move in the midst of lots of other commitments, and meaningful work for Mitch to do. The notion that there is an order to all of these things seems sensible, however, the same “sense making” leads to striving, anxiousness, and uneasiness that fail to quiet the heart and clear the eye.
Today I read the story of Jesus feeding a lot of people with a little. The classic miracle: doing a lot with a little; all things are possible with God; use what you have and God will multiply your efforts; trust God and God will take care of your needs. While these are timely lessons readily implied by us in the story, this wasn’t exactly what I noticed.
Jesus had just instructed his disciples to go out and preach the kingdom and heal and added, “Take nothing for your journey,” seemingly ill prepared advice.
The apostles return and the next scene unfolds. The crowds of needy people follow Jesus to the remotest of places. No provisions are there where Jesus told his disciples to feed those crowds—real scarcity. And the part of the story that stood up in front of me today?
And they took up what was left over, twelve baskets of broken pieces. Luke 9:17 (RSV)
Parker Palmer writes,
Sadly, the scarcity assumption leads to all kinds of things that kill the spirit: anxiety, resentment, hoarding, overwork, competition, and an inability to enjoying life.
When I find myself drifting in that direction, I return to this poem. If I read it slowly enough — savoring what Wendell Berry celebrates about nature and human nature — I am better able to open my eyes and see the truth in its last line.
The Wild Geese by Wendell Berry
Horseback on Sunday morning,
harvest over, we taste persimmon
and wild grape, sharp sweet
of summer’s end. In time’s maze
over fall fields, we name names
that rest on graves. We open
a persimmon seed to find the tree
that stands in promise,
pale, in the seed’s marrow.
Geese appear high over us,
pass, and the sky closes. Abandon,
as in love or sleep, holds
them to their way, clear
in the ancient faith: what we need
is here. And we pray, not
for new earth or heaven, but to be
quiet in heart, and in eye,
clear. What we need is here.
Parker concludes with insights I continually grapple with, too.
The “scarcity assumption” is a self-fulfilling prophecy; the more I live as if it were true, the truer it becomes for me. Abundance comes as I break free of scarcity thinking and remind myself again and again that “What we need is here.”
What we need is here and there. Consider the lilies that are coming up in my backyard.