My eyes shifted back and forth across the room, making sure no one would witness what I was about to do. I was quiet. I was quick. I stole a package of cheese crackers. From my child.
Maybe I should back up a bit.
Life is good. I’m spending time with God daily. I live near the beach. My job isn’t stressful. My kids are happy and healthy. It’s winter, but there is no ice in sight – only warm, gorgeous sunshine. My husband and I have taken action toward an intentional, purposeful life. We downsized our house, our possessions, and our responsibilities. Life is very good – but it’s not without struggles.
Backing off on careers has meant living with much less income. There is no room for complaining; this was a deliberate choice, not an unwanted circumstance like it is for so many others. We had it all budgeted and planned – it was going to be fine.
But then a feisty financial parasite decided to make its home right in the middle of our beautifully budgeted plan. It has firmly dug in, feeding on every last drop of disposable income, and clearly plans to stay awhile. Our pet parasite was quickly followed by a pesky gnat that had already been batted away several times, but just refused to be ignored any longer.
Things were getting financially tight. It felt good, like a much needed lesson, but uncomfortable at the same time. We’ve been learning to “live within our means.” I still trip over the fact that we have to teach ourselves this, but real life practice is the only thing that seems to be working against ingrained habits. We’ve learned to only buy what’s necessary and to stretch every paycheck in imaginative ways. It’s amazing, but also eye-opening – seeing how much we wasted before, just because we could.
Then an opportunity presented itself. We needed to go on a trip that would keep us away for eight days. I figured this could be a great experiment to test what we’ve learned! I didn’t want any food to be wasted, spoiling while we were gone. When I surveyed our pantry, it was still overflowing, even though we had been so deliberate about buying less.
Now it was time to see what we were made of – no major grocery shopping the week before our trip. We would make do with what we already had. Our checkbook would get a nice two week break from grocery bills so we could feed the parasite, and we would get a nice pat on the back for simple living at its finest. (From whom, I don’t know, but I was certain it would feel good.) I was ready to relate to the Israelites and the manna raining down from Heaven – only using exactly what was needed each day. Let’s do this!
Days 1-3 were great. I creatively pulled together ingredients from the pantry and made perfectly normal meals for my family. The kids couldn’t even tell we were doing anything different. This actually felt do-able. I started planning the epic speech I would make at the end of the week, pointing out how much we’ve grown and overcome.
But on day 4, we ran out of milk. This was a big deal because I was planning on cereal for a few meals. Not to mention milk is my favorite drink, which I watched disappear as my son poured himself the final glass, all the way to the rim. My inner hyena almost mauled him as a few precious drops hit the counter.
What was this? I’m a big girl. I can drink water instead of milk for a few days. But somehow that milk incident triggered the nasty feeling that I had been trying so hard to eradicate from my life. The feeling of not enough. Suddenly each meal felt as if it were going to be my last. Forever. I found myself having double what I would normally eat at each meal, my body greedily trying to prepare for the worst.
I always let my children get their helpings first, but I was definitely pouting as I ate the crust that nobody else wanted (not because I was hungry, but just in case). I anxiously watched my husband dig into his Christmas stocking, knowing there was a gift card in there for an all-you-can-eat buffet. I counted down the minutes to a church picnic, knowing that in exchange for the cookies we had scraped together with the last of our pantry ingredients, we would be blessed with fried chicken, mac & cheese, chips, and desserts. We ate until we were sick that day.
And then there was the little cracker episode. Sigh.
There would be no epic speech at the end of this week.
Instead, I needed a nice little time-out to reflect on not enough.
This experiment revealed demons that I really thought I had already defeated.
- I am still afraid of not having enough.
- I am not being honest about what “enough” really is.
- I don’t always trust that God will provide.
- I am still letting my ego use fear to drive my actions.
The season of Lent is about to start. It’s a time to focus on God by abstaining from things that have been blocking us from Him. As I prayed about what I should clear out of the way for 6 weeks, it became obvious to me that giving up chocolate or Facebook wasn’t going to cut it this year. I need to give up my belief in scarcity – the fear of not enough. I need to trade in my fear for faith in the only One who is already enough.
The truth is that we had more than enough that week (as we do every week). God provided not only an abundance of food, but a valuable lesson. Even with our reduced income and dealing with a parasite, we have more than most of the world. There are millions of people who aren’t “practicing” or “experimenting” but are actually faced with the harsh reality of living paycheck-to-paycheck, or with no income at all. God showed me (in the form of my inner hyena) that I have a lot more work to do, and that He will help me through it if I’ll just let Him.
I watched my children during that week, blissfully unaware, completely trusting that we would provide their next meal. My heart aches to trust my Heavenly Father like that. My heart also aches for all the children who don’t know where their next meal is coming from.
So while a miniature army of marshmallow chicks are marching toward Easter on the grocery store shelves, I’ll be fasting. I’m asking God to remind me that I can in fact survive without a meal, without a Facebook binge, without (gasp) milk. I plan to replace those things with service to the hungry, prayer, and Bible study. There is only one thing in this world that consistently sustains and fulfills me, and that is God’s love. When I focus on Him instead of worldly comforts, He provides more (from the love of my family to a perfectly timed church picnic) than I thought I needed in the first place.
I pray by the time Easter is dawning, I’ll be completely focused on the truth that His resurrection is way more than enough. It’s everything.