Abundance in a World of Choices

Blog / Produced by The High Calling
Tim Miller 2011 06 10 Caboolture Show 075 square

I was sent out on a short-term mission trip to the grocery store. “It won’t take long,” she promised. Her head tilted just so and her eyes firing rapid blinks. “Pick up some apples and I’ll make a pie.” How could I resist?

The male double-helix shopping code is to “get in and get out without any complication.” So I thought this was going to be an easy assignment. Like the last time I brought home eggs. A couple were broken. You have to check? And they were brown. Who knew? Or when I bravely found diced tomatoes without asking anyone for help. Apples, I can do this!

But little did I realize I would be faced with such a variety. Red Delicious, Golden Delicious, Granny Smith, Rome Beauty, McIntosh, Fuji, Gala, Jonagold. There were yellow, green, red, and even multi-colored varieties. Where would I start? I felt a vortex of indecision swirling around me. My breathing got shallow, and I almost bailed on the assignment. But then I would have to come up with an elaborate story involving a police chase or a gas leak or swarm of birds winging through the aisles.

After a couple of frantic text messages, I was finally able to make a proper selection. But the experience still weighed on me as I drove home. I considered the intricate weave of choice, abundance, and blessing. It was amplified by the stories the next Sunday from the high-schoolers from church who just returned from a real mission trip to Mexico.

Thanks for nothing

The group had arrived at the small, poor village in identical new vans. Suburban teenagers in crisp jeans with white ear buds dangling from their pockets soon realized what poverty looked like. Their job was to help build homes. Considering the villagers lived in crude shacks built of scrap sheet metal or reinforced refrigerator boxes, the pre-fab huts were a big improvement. Still, not one of these teens would ever have to live in something so simple.

During our church service, one girl spoke about the experience and was most impressed at how utterly satisfied these people were. She told us about the worship experience in the village church. The prayers were filled with the word “gracias,” uttered dozens of times.

“Over and again these people thanked God and never bothered asking him for more. They had nothing, but they thanked him for everything,” she recounted.

Stuffed bird, empty heart

I think about those villagers, and others in my life, who are struggling to make a living, clawing their way through everyday existence. Why are they so abundant in good spirits, praise, and joy? And why are the rest of us so . . . needy?

This time of year we tend to give praise for our bounty. The plump, plucked turkey and mounds of potatoes are dolloped with ample reminders to give thanks for God’s blessing. And we should always be grateful. But to be honest, I don’t always do so well in the land of plenty. In my richest days I’m also the most self-indulgent. In fact, all of this abundance of goods might not be best for me.

Equating abundance with blessing is deceptive. Just because I can buy Aloe-infused bath tissues or honey-dipped crackers doesn’t mean I’m blessed by God. Standing in a world surrounded by choice isn’t really all that it’s cracked up to be.

I am much more blessed when I have simplicity. When I clamor for mystery and relish the uncertainty, I take the first steps into the Promised Land. And there I find an abundance of blessing.

Still, I never want to take anything for granted.

Now, where’s that pie?

EDITOR'S NOTE: Most days at work or home or in my community, if things aren't going the way I plan, I operate under the assumption that if I just had MORE - more time, more resources, more staff, more energy - that I could do better. But what if, as Peter says in his second letter, we have been given everything we need for a godly life (2 Peter 1:3)? How would having enough, or even more than enough, change the way we work and live and serve and give? On Thursday mornings in November, we are exploring abundance. Join us as we remember our brothers and sisters around the world, empathize with the family down the street, and walk down the aisles of the local grocery. And if you have a minute to spare, drop us a note in the comments to tell us what living in abundancy means to you.

Other Posts on Abundance:

David Rupert is a writer from Denver, Colorado. He works in public communications and serves as the Newsletter Editor at The High Calling. He blogs regularly at Red Letter Believers and cowrote Make a Difference: Growth in Leadership with Dr. Larry Little and Melissa Hambrick Jackson.

Image by Tim Miller. Used with permission. Sourced via Flickr.

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