Thursday, March 14, 2013
Even though I'm a Christian, my perspective on life can veer shockingly karma-ward. It's so subtle that I didn't start noticing it until a few months ago. Left to my own devices, I believe in a balance to the universe, a mystical, sacrificial bargaining philosophy (well expressed in several Florence + The Machine songs). I've had unbidden thoughts like, Well, if only I or [person I love] could have [good thing she has that I don't], I'm glad it was her. Like there are limits and no good can come to anyone without someone else paying the piper.
This belief might romanticize our sufferings, or help us feel like we have some control over them. But it's completely unbiblical.
I think I know where some of it comes from, though. One of the most brilliant parts of Daring Greatly (sorry I'm not sorry for still talking about this book) is Brene Brown's observation that we live in a culture of scarcity. We have a gut instinct that there's not enough of anything – food, land, love, blessings – to go around, so we scrape and claw for whatever we can get, and once we have it, we defend it ferociously. It affects every aspect of our being. It's part of why we live by checks and balances and have such a hard time understanding grace.
The fact is, we serve a God of abundance, not scarcity. His resources are limitless, and Jesus paid for everything – our sins and everything else – on the cross. He balanced the books forever. None of us deserve blessings, but they're all free and God can pour them out on us as much as He chooses. While writing this, I did a search for "abundant" on Bible Gateway and got 46 results, most of them in connection with God's provision for His people. I don't believe in prosperity theology, but I could use more reminders that God's default setting is abundance (non-materially speaking). His goodness, peace, joy, and love are available to me abundantly. In the meantime, if He denies me good things, He's not just doing it for fun.
Throughout her great book The Allure of Hope, Jan Meyers uses the allegory of a person sitting down to a glorious meal of all her favorite things, prepared by a joyful, talented chef. The person is filled with happy anticipation, but just before the meal is served, she's suddenly escorted down a hall and into a dark, cold alley. The door shuts behind her, and she's left alone. She pounds on the door, but no one comes to let her back in. She tries to make sense of what's happened, convinced that she must have imagined the kindness and good intentions of the chef. It's an unusual allegory, but the picture it paints is very powerful (to me, anyway) and provides a lot of angles for reflection. Today it reminds me that even if I feel like I'm in the alley at the moment and no one is coming to the door, the feast is still inside and the Chef is still in charge. He's not presiding over an empty table, but one full of good things. And whenever the door opens, even though my hands are empty, I can partake with joy without washing any dishes.