Our wonderful Pastor and teacher, Dr. Chuck Wilson, has taken the opportunity to preach (and I mean preach!) each Sunday of this Season of Lent a series of sermons centered around a study our congregation is doing on a book called “Hope Lives,” by Amber Van Schooneveld. I highly recommend this book to all, for either a group, or an individual study. It deals with poverty – a small word for a condition that is of a huge magnitude, and multiple definitions, and exists in a great number of contexts.
Yesterday, March 7, one of the questions asked was, “What is the opposite of poverty?” What do you think? Is it wealth or riches? Is it having everything you could ever want? These are the obvious answers that many if not most people will give when asked. Chuck cited an author, Wes Stafford, who said that if you were to put poverty and wealth on a sliding scale, what you would eventually arrive at is that the opposite of poverty is “enough,”which is also the opposite of wealth. What is enough? How do you know you have it, and what is enough to you, indeed, what is enough for me or anybody? I have always had in the back of my mind that when speaking in terms of money, my idea of enough is $.01 more in my bank account each month than I used…note that at this point I say “used,” rather than “needed.” For my entire life I have had more than enough of everything. Imagining those who have never had enough of anything, who indeed die for need of the things I have far too much of – for things I put in the garbage, and throw away as spoiled or useless – these things haunt me more than anything else in my life, and are sins, that while I know from an intellectual standpoint that God forgives me when I repent, I also often fail to follow through on my repentance and continue to do the same things over and over. I question my forgiveness especially of myself. Then I am stuck in the quandary of whether I want to stay miserable, feeling sorry for my sins, but not doing anything, or actually taking the bold, and for me, energetic step of getting up and acting out my belief that I have been blessed to be a blessing, and not a self-satisfied, self-centered “spiritual couch potato.”
I start each day thanking God for another day in which to honor God not only in what I say, but in what I do. I close each day asking forgiveness for the opportunities God gave me that I ignored or overlooked. I have a longer list, it seems, each evening, because through study I am becoming more and more aware of things I can do yet fail to. I pray God’s patience with me…I know that God has not finished with me yet, and while I may take two steps forward and one step back, repeatedly, nevertheless, I am progressing. For one thing, I am beginning to learn what is enough for me, and I know that in divesting myself of the surplus I have, God is lifting the burden from me that goes along with having too much.
What is enough? I’m learning, but I do have blind spots. Food has always been one of them, one of the idols that has had a hold on my attention and “worship.” Over the past 7 or 8 months, I have been on a journey of new attitude toward food. I do not mean a losing-weight sort of diet (although that has been somewhat of a consequence). What I mean is not looking to food ever again for anything other than what I need to live in a healthy manner, and enjoying the richness of enough, without complaining, and in an “attitude of gratitude” for the abundance I have been given. I believe that God gave us all kinds of wonderful things, beautiful, funny, and magnificent creations and all sorts of tastes and savory things to enjoy, but not to worship. True joy comes not in sybaritic self-indulgence of earthly pleasures, or in the eating itself, but in the fellowship that can go along with it – fellowship not just with other people, but koininia with God, in which we are allowed to enjoy the blessings provided to us in the very presence of God. I’m working on it. Pray for me that I can let go of this idol of too much food that has often been at the center of my worship.
But again, when is enough enough? I will close this post with the final lines of a lovely true story written and witnessed by Bob Perks some years ago. It is most likely familiar to you, but I include these few sentences from the story of a father bidding his daughter farewell at an airport, because it speaks so eloquently of “enough.” Mr. Perks witnessed the farewell, and spoke to the father, whose eyes were brimming, having parted from his daughter for what he knew, because of health challenges he was facing, would be the last time:
“When you were saying goodbye I heard you say, “I wish you enough.” May I ask what that means?”
He began to smile. “That’s a wish that has been handed down from other generations. My parents used to say it to everyone.” He paused for a moment and looking up as if trying to remember it in detail, he smiled even more.”When we said ‘I wish you enough,’ we were wanting the other person to have a life filled with just enough good things to sustain them,” he continued and then turning toward me he shared the following as if he were reciting it from memory.
“I wish you enough sun to keep your attitude bright.
I wish you enough rain to appreciate the sun more.
I wish you enough happiness to keep your spirit alive.
I wish you enough pain so that the smallest joys in life appear much bigger.
I wish you enough gain to satisfy your wanting.
I wish you enough loss to appreciate all that you possess.
I wish enough “Hello’s” to get you through the final “Goodbye.”
He then began to sob and walked away.
And so, gentle reader, with all my heart, I wish you – I wish everyone – enough.