December 4th, 2012

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The fear of scarcity

Tuesday, December 4th, 2012

I have recently come to the realization that I am a hoarder.

Now, please don’t confuse “hoarder” with “packrat.” I do not live in squalor. I don’t stack my living room floor with old newspapers and crocheted doilies and ashtrays. I regularly take sacks of clothing, shoes, and books to Goodwill. I shred and recycle unnecessary documents. I’m not overly sentimental; if it doesn’t serve a regular use in my daily life, I typically get rid of it. Let it be known far and wide that I don’t own a single Christmas decoration – NOT ONE. (Somewhere, a reindeer just died.)

But I live in a near constant fear of scarcity: that I will not have enough, that I am not safe enough, that I am not good enough. And this fear tempts me to hoard, to stockpile, whether it’s to my bank account or to my refrigerator or to my pride. If I can just secure everything that I’m sure I’ll ever need, then I will never be left vulnerable.

We live in a culture of such abundance, it’s odd that the fear of scarcity is so prevalent. But I see it everywhere I look – in global politics (“We’re out of oil”), in Black Friday shoppers (“I can’t miss a deal”), in economics (“FISCAL CLIFF”).

And don’t get me wrong – I’m just as concerned about this world as anyone else. I’m alarmed at the state of the environment, the way our government has hemorrhaged money, and the realities of the food system in America. This movie gave me nightmares. If I owned land, you’d find me preparing for the apocalypse with solar panels, a gigantic garden, and a bomb shelter.

But living in the fear of scarcity is a sign that I believe in the greedy lie that there is not enough, and its lonely stepsister, no one will take care of me. It focuses on the future, taking me out of the present moment – which is dangerous, since according to Eugene Peterson, “The only opportunity you will ever have to live by faith is in the circumstances you are provided this very day: this house you live in, this family you find yourself in, this job you have been given, the weather conditions that prevail at the moment.”

Living in the present does leave us vulnerable, because it takes the future out of our hands. It removes our sense of control.

But that sense of control was an illusion to begin with. And vulnerability is a chance to trust in something bigger than ourselves, which is the most beautiful of opportunities.

Now, this isn’t an excuse to be stupid. I’m going to continue attempting to make responsible decisions with my money, because I don’t want to end up destitute. I’m going to continue working hard toward my personal goals, because I don’t want to have unnecessary regrets. I’m going to continue carrying a snack in my purse, because I don’t want to wind up at a McDonald’s drive-thru (heaven forbid).

But when I try to hoard my money, my possessions, my achievements, they will rot like manna.

There is enough – for you, for me, for exactly what we’ll need, when we’ll need it. I want to live and give freely. Don’t you?