catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 11, Num 9 :: 2012.04.27 — 2012.05.10



And my more-having would be as a sauce
To make me hunger more

from Shakespeare’s Macbeth

We are all familiar with certain realities that seem to defy logic — people who live in impoverished countries with limited access to running water and are happy, and people who have all the wealth and status millions of others strive for who are not happy.  There are all sorts of well-worn clichés and studies that offer explanations for these phenomena, but one of the things that seems to be at issue is whether the person in question feels that he or she has enough.  Enough of what?  Well, that depends.  Values can differ radically from culture to culture and often even within a culture.  What I struggle with, however, is how radically my own sense of what is enough can shift on a day-to-day and sometimes even hourly basis.  After an enjoyable dinner out with friends, I’ll feel like my life is pretty great.  And then the next morning, when my dishwasher breaks and I have to deal with a coworker’s incompetence for the hundredth time, I can feel like my life is pretty crummy.

Such instability is disturbing and even somewhat embarrassing.  Don’t I, as a Christian and a fully grown adult, have strong core values?  Am I not supposed to be rooted in Christ and therefore impervious to my circumstances?  Am I not being ungrateful for all the good things in my life in these moments of dissatisfaction?  But asking myself those types of questions is about as effective as parents telling their kids to think of starving children in order to make them eat their vegetables — it only adds a layer of guilt to the pre-existing (and undiminished) resentment and self-pity. 

It helps to realize that this issue of having enough is as old as creation.  Lucifer, bright star and chief among all the angels, felt that he didn’t have enough.  After his disastrous fall into truly lacking everything, he decided to take Eve with him and convinced her — the woman who had perfect intimacy with God and Adam and lived in paradise — that she also didn’t have enough.  The Old Testament is full of stories about nations and individuals complaining about and acting on the belief that they need or deserve more than they already have.  In our current age, most of the United States economy depends on people feeling that they don’t have enough or aren’t enough the way they currently are.  If you are not rich enough, attractive enough, healthy enough, educated enough, successful enough or dating enough, there is a product or service or self-help book waiting for you.  Call or sign up now! 

Ironically, in the midst of all this anxiety about not having enough, we are simultaneously struggling with having too much.  I see evidence of it all around my house in the stacks of books and magazines waiting to be read, in the growing list of unwatched programs on my DVR, in the number of blogs and websites I’m (not) following, and even in the appliances and equipment I’ve purchased in order to live a more healthy lifestyle gathering dust in my kitchen cupboards.  Based on the number of conversations we have about how behind we are and how little time we seem to have, I know most, if not all, of my friends and coworkers have the same problem.

So how do we balance out these two extremes, these opposite sides of the same coin?  I don’t know, because I haven’t had time to read all those books and articles about simplifying my life that are piled on my counter.  Which points me to the real problem: that I think I can in some way make myself satisfied and provide myself with an optimal life, and that if I just know enough or have enough or utilize my time efficiently enough, I can achieve total satisfaction.  Somewhat related to that is the fallacy that if I had just lived in a different era of the past, which always seems to have been better than the current age to every generation that has ever lived (see: Israelites pining for their life of slavery in Egypt), then I would be happier and enjoy my life more.  But as scripture points out in story after story, the more we try to fix ourselves and improve our lot in life, the less satisfied we will be and the more negative consequences we will unleash.  As long as I am trying to provide for myself, I will never have enough because I was never created to provide for myself.  I lack that capacity because God created me to be in relationship with him so that he can provide for me. 

Psalm 46:10 tells us to be still and know that God is God — such a short and simple verse, but one that directly addresses this struggle.  I cannot live and enjoy my life the way God intended except in those moments when I stop trying to usurp his place with all of my own efforts.  For me to truly know that God is God, the one source of all goodness and satisfaction in life, I have to be still.  And that is really really hard, because even knowing the truth of this, I am constantly forgetting and falling back into striving. 

How necessary it becomes, then, that God is inexhaustible in his forgiveness and his efforts to re-orient his people.  How necessary that we read the words he has given us to remind us of our true state.  And how necessary that we, in seeking to be Christ-like, follow his lead in carving out time to get away from the crowds and be still in the presence our Father.  Because without that, we will never have enough.

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