Some say we're climbing out of "The Great Recession," others a mini-depression. Regardless of what you call it, millions are still tightening their financial belts.
In my own life, I can remember spending time with my grandmother, a child of the Great Depression. She was on a budget, and a resourceful cook, making most things from scratch. I picked up some of her culinary and general life wisdom that centered on the principles "Less is more" and "Waste not, want not." Yet, for all of the virtues of being thrifty, I remember a college friend recounting stories about her grandparents, who also lived during the Depression. She told how their frugality led to pack rat tendencies that nearly crowded them out of their house!
Now that the demand of the day is to rein in spending, the question of "necessity" seems more relevant than ever. It's become popular to be increasingly conscious about resources. But in such a variable economy, we may ask, What's the best way to be prepared? And how do we strike a balance between spending wisely and hiding our money under the mattress?
Mary Baker Eddy, a late-19th-century humanitarian and businesswoman, provided this insight: "What we most need is the prayer of fervent desire for growth in grace, expressed in patience, meekness, love, and good deeds" (Science and Health, p. 4). What a practical statement. On the most basic level, it appears that we have two options, to spend or save. But understanding the situation spiritually, we recognize that we aren't limited at all—we can love, pray, and find grace in moments of duress. This sense of confidence is a beacon to other people.
Looking outward, we see beyond our own deficiency and find new ways to love. The call to be patient, meek, and to do good deeds puts the emphasis on "How can I give and help?" as opposed to heeding the fear that asks, "What's in it for me?"—and then letting our actions follow. Taking the time to see the blessings right in front of us quiets harried feelings of insufficiency or excess, and brings God's abundance into focus.
A recent example from the grocery store was a helpful metaphor about how to overcome fear of lack, and trust God. I had returned home from a trip, my kitchen cupboards were bare, and I needed to buy groceries. In the produce section of the grocery store, I spotted a large five-pound bag of carrots. Considering the cost savings, I tossed the bag into my cart. But before I made it to the checkout line, I realized that I didn't actually need that many carrots—they would likely go to waste before I could use them all.
First reluctantly and then laughingly, I exchanged the large bag for a smaller bag, glad that I would be eating more than carrot sticks and carrot-everything-else for the week. As I finished my shopping, I realized how grabbing the larger bag was in effect a subtle way of "hoarding" or acting out of fear. Somewhere along the way, thoughts about not having enough food or money in the future had taken root. And yet, I knew those fears were groundless and didn't come from God. Looking back through my life, I can remember other challenging times when I felt like I didn't have enough. Trusting God at each point, I've had what I've needed, when I've needed it—at times, not a moment too soon.
This promise from the Bible has helped me find balance in my life: "Thou art my portion, O Lord" (Ps. 119:57). God is a steady resource for each one of us. As we rely more confidently on God, we see that matter is restrictive while Spirit is expansive. In this model we can't be deprived or deficient, and we don't need to wait for some exterior factor to come into play before we trust God and love others generously.
Because we trust the infinite nature of God, we don't need to stockpile good for some future date. As God's children, we have all that we need right now and can share that confidence with others. The spiritual reality is that no one is left out of the divine equation of supply meeting demand. Regardless of the news reports, I find it helpful to pray, "Today hath need of thee" (Christian Science Hymnal, No. 6). Each one of us is needed, and each one has useful ideas and skills to share. Trust is renewed as we find that it is not necessarily more money, more this or that, which will meet our needs, but a willingness to give and share without calculating the outcome that blesses and sustains us.
GRABBING THE LARGER BAG WAS IN EFFECT A WAY OF "HOARDING" OR ACTING OUT OF FEAR. THOUGHTS ABOUT NOT HAVING ENOUGH HAD TAKEN ROOT.
Being grateful for what we have today, and knowing that it comes from God, means we can never be cut off from this spiritual supply. Economic cycles of the past do not need to determine our future hope and prosperity. And when we pray to see that God is an ever-present help to all, we're not wondering if we'll have enough or seizing the five-pound bag of carrots, but gently and confidently living from the basis that God is gracious and that what He's giving us right now is sufficient. |
Ginger Mack devotes her time to the practice of Christian Science healing. She lives in Wisconsin.
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