So spacious is he, so roomy, that everything of God finds its proper place in him without crowding. Not only that, but all the broken and dislocated pieces of the universe – people and things, animals and atoms – get properly fixed and fit together in vibrant harmonies, all because of his death, his blood that poured down from the Cross.
Colossians 1:19-20, MSG
My Dear Girls,
We love a God of plenty, and there’s room for you here.
In this world, with it’s equations and resources and calculations, you’re going to hear a million different voices shouting there’s never enough. The economy of the world says we’re always coming up short. Never enough time, never enough money, never enough space. And in some ways, this message adds up and sounds like truth.
Mamas in other corners of this world and across the tracks open their cupboards and stare hard at empty shelves, wondering how to make nothing into something to fill the empty tummies of their babies. Cities locked in by mountains and oceans grow up because there’s nowhere else to go. And though the growth looks beautiful and grand, daring and bold, the streets below grow dirtier and darker. And there are children on those streets. Curled onto softened squares of cardboard and tucked into corners of buildings, as though a layer of corrugated paper and a hard stone wall could double as a nest.
You will see them, and I’ll look into your haunted-by-question eyes. And in the face of it all, I will still whisper to you that there’s enough. With a steady voice, I’ll tell you what I know to be true: We love a God of plenty.
I remember when I was a little girl and the very first 24-hour-news channels debuted. At the time, we all used to scoff at the scrolling ticker-tape of headlines they’d manufacture to fill the hours and the space. That’s not news, we’d laugh. But we’ve all stopped laughing. And many of us never turn it off… we watch those scrolling headlines waiting to see what someone in the newsroom at FOX or CNN tells us we need to fear. We’re good at being afraid; it almost feels normal now. We’re good at suspicion and indignation and burning anger. It’s like the mortar we use to build ourselves higher walls and bigger fortresses.
Fear feels like safety. It may be poison, but going down it tastes like prudence and good sense.
Politicians shout and lie and promise the moon. But then our eyes adjust and we see their moon is just another cheap glow-in-the-dark sticker stuck on the ceiling of the same dingy room it seems we’ve always been in, and the bright light will fade before morning. They tell us who we should hate. Immigrants. Liberals. Snowflakes. Deplorables. We choose our sides and pick our poisons. “Be afraid,” they shout, from morning to night, and it’s so loud we fail to hear the whisper of the One who says exactly the opposite.
Implicit in this message of fear is that there’s not enough for all of us. There’s not room for different perspectives and different languages and different cultures at the same table. So get what you can. Use your elbows if necessary. We may not yet force others to wear a Star-of-David badge on their dingy clothes, but we are sorting one another nonetheless. And though maybe you haven’t yet experienced the agony of being the clumsy, short, bookish kid standing in the corner of the playground waiting to be picked for dodgeball, you’ll find out soon enough that sorting is implicitly an act of dehumanization. One of the quickest ways to justify our panicky grabbing-of-more is to assume we deserve it more than others… I think this is why we sort. This is why we dehumanize.
Once my car, with its shining E light, demanded I sit in long gas lines. I watched people fill up their tanks and then fill up containers of gasoline. I watched an attendant cover one pump and then another with flimsy plastic bags. They’d run out. Never enough. I saw people grow bitter and anger and panicky. I felt frustration tighten my own chest. What if there’s not enough for me? I felt superior and set-apart from the others in the line. I’m here because I actually need gas. My E light tells me so. I watch a man feeling up containers in the back of his truck. These other people are absurd. I sorted and I categorized and I deemed myself justified and superior.
As I wondered what crisis I had missed that created this run on the pumps, Facebook answered my question soon enough. A hurricane 10 hours away triggered local rumors that we’d soon face gasoline shortages in our area. And since we believed it to be true, we made it so… all across town, people ran to pumps and took far more than they needed. We created our own gas shortage. Those in the lines filling up their tanks and their cans and their containers called it prudent and preparatory and proper. When do we get honest and just call it selfish?
But here’s the thing girls… when everyone around you is rushing to the pumps to buy gas they don’t need, there’s a quiet bravery in trusting the God of Plenty and holding back.
We love a God who turns water into wine, loaves and fishes into a feast, a mostly empty bottle of oil into a bottomless jug. And though these miracles hinge on his power, they all start with someone unclenching their fingers and offering what they have and inviting him into the equation. God is still in the business of turning what we offer with open hands into enough. He is still a God of Plenty.
So I pray you’ll practice curiosity rather than categorization and invitation instead of exclusion. When your first impulse may be sympathetic judgement choose empathetic compassion instead. (If your statement starts with “Oh bless her heart, but…” please know you’re probably not seeing someone in all their complexity.) Ask questions. Invite someone new to dinner. Be a friend to the new kid. Learn to recognize that when it comes to feeding our impulses, sometimes more is actually less. Cultivate contentment in your life and you’ll start to recognize when “enough is enough” in your own life and you’ll be more free to open your hands to share what you have with others.
While the economy of the world says we’re always coming up short, the economy of God says there’s always enough. And if in the economy of the world the currency is fear and suspicion, in the economy of God, the currency is love and trust.
And girls, I pray you spend like you just won the lottery. You’ll find freedom on the other side.