“You’re always so positive,” people often used to say to me.
One of my doctors likes to tell me how shocked he was when shortly after he met me, paralyzed and lying in a hospital bed, I told him that the nearby university was handicapped accessible and that even though I might never walk again, I was still looking forward to graduate school.
“You have such a positive attitude,” he told me. “That will go a long way.”
I did walk again after that first hospital stay. Just this morning I ran two miles, in fact. But I quit graduate school after a semester, and over the next 11 years later, I faced an abundance of disappointments. Heartache, cancer, death, fear. Now, I’m not always so positive. Sometimes, I see all that others have and feel a little gypped, if you must know.
It’s kind of like looking at a glass filled midway with water. Is it half empty? Or half full? Most of the time, I don’t care. I just want to know who drank half my water?
On Thursdays in November, we have been discussing abundance.
In his piece “More Than Enough: Giving Out of Abundance,” Dan King writes about looking at his own life – his possessions, opportunities, skills – from a global perspective and discovering how much he really has. But even with this view, it’s not always easy to share, he says. “I wonder if sometimes we think about ‘enough’ like we think about a cup of water. We believe that if we empty out some of what we have, then we have less than what we started with. On the surface, this is true. If you have $100, and give $50 of it to me, then you only have $50 left. However, much of what we can give to others doesn’t even require us to give away the ‘volume’ of what we have. For instance, when I teach something to someone else, not only do I retain the knowledge I’m sharing, but sometimes I can even build on it.”
Cheryl Smith has a different perspective on abundance, having come from a place of poverty growing up. “In truth, I lived smack dab in the middle of my own ‘Poverty Culture,’” she describes. In her essay, “Escaping Poverty for the Abundant Life,” Cheryl wrestles with questions about wealth and blessing, even as she wants a better life for her children. “I haven’t exactly formulated my personal theology on these matters,” she concludes. “Instead, I answer questions with questions, and I’m left wondering, what if abundance is less about wealth and possessions and more about life and grace?”
Where Cheryl leaves off, David Rupert picks up in his piece, “Abundance in a World of Choice.” What starts as a simple trip to the grocery becomes an opportunity for reflection as David stares down into the apple bins.
“Little did I realize I would be faced with such a variety,” he writes. “Red Delicious, Golden Delicious, Granny Smith, Rome Beauty, McIntosh, Fuji, Gala, Jonagold. There were yellow, green, red, and even multi-colored varieties. Where would I start? I felt a vortex of indecision swirling around me. My breathing got shallow, and I almost bailed on the assignment.”
The overwhelming feeling he has choosing apples proves to be a picture of abundance throughout this life. And it worries him when he calls all that he has “blessing.”
“To be honest, I don’t always do so well in the land of plenty,”’ he writes. “In my richest days I’m also the most self-indulgent. In fact, all of this abundance of goods might not be best for me. Equating abundance with blessing is deceptive. Just because I can buy Aloe-infused bath tissues or honey-dipped crackers doesn’t mean I’m blessed by God.”
I take a sip of water from the cup that sits next to me and wonder.
Could it be that the when I measure my abundance or think about my circumstances based on how much water is in my glass I miss a crucial point? Looking at the glass as half full or half empty fails to acknowledge that I have a glass! Even if it’s only half full, I can get more water. I can fill my glass to sprinkle on a garden to grow food. If I fill it over and over, I can use the glass to put out fires. I can share the glass with a friend who doesn’t have one, then wash it and drink from it again myself. I can dip my brush into the tiniest bit of water in that glass, and let the paint slip off the bristles after painting a masterpiece. And if I leave the glass empty, I can suck it hard onto my face and make my sons laugh hysterically.
If I have a glass, I have all I need. And then some.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Most days at work or home or in my community, if things aren’t going the way I plan, I operate under the assumption that if I just had MORE – more time, more resources, more staff, more energy – that I could do better. But what if, as Peter says in his second letter, we have been given everything we need for a godly life (2 Peter 1:3)? How would having enough, or even more than enough, change the way we work and live and serve and give? On Thursday mornings in November, we have been exploring abundance. We have remembered our brothers and sisters around the world, empathized with the family down the street, and walked down the aisles of the local grocery. Want to spend more time thinking about abundance? Consider inviting a coworker or friend to read all of the articles in the abundance series with you, and then meet some time to discuss them together. Print out a PDF version of “The High Calling of Abundance” with a list of links, resources, and questions to help you.
Other Posts on Abundance:
- More than Enough: Giving out of Abundance by Dan King
- Escaping Poverty for the Abundant Life by Cheryl Smith
- Abundance in a World of Choices by David Rupert
- The High Calling of Abundance by Charity Singleton Craig