I grew up in a pretty middle class exsistence. Two parents, two siblings, a dog. Sometimes things were tight, but mostly if we really wanted it, our parents found a way to make that happen. Even if that meant picking up a paper route to get to horse camp, or an after school office job to get to Spain. I certainly didn’t know what it meant to not have enough food, even if it wasn’t the fruit snacks and doritos that graced my friends cupboards. We got by.
At the lake, where there were more people to feed and keep happy but there were the incredibly generous grandparents, as well as some sort of system in place to insure everyone got their piece. A caper chart, a line going by age, an aunt telling the older cousins “only three meat balls till everyone has had some!” There was either so much that everyone could have as much as they wanted (candy on the porch), or some system in place to make sure that everyone at least got enough (half a pan is more than one serving, put the lasagna back).
In the fall of 2007 I started teaching at a “high needs” school. High needs is politically correct for poor. In this case really poor. Ninety-eight percent of my students were on free lunch. The other two percent had lives so chaotic no one bothered to fill out the form. It was my first experience with never enough. The books we were assigned by the county to read? There weren’t enough for every tenth grade classroom to even have a class set. You had to anticipate the reading of them, and then sneak in and take them before the other teachers. Even then I only got 28 for my class of 34. We didn’t have enough desks. In fifth period it was first come first serve. My kids would race to class in order to ensure they did not have to sit on the floor. In October we ran out of paper. This was a complete shock to me, but teachers (older and wiser than me) had seen it coming and squirled away as much as they could the previous months. They still ran out. I ran out of extra pencils and paper. There weren’t enough expo markers or computer time. There wasn’t even enough toilet paper in the student bathrooms.
It is crazy what always running out of things does to people. You are constantly scheming to get what you need. Constantly. If there are ten extra pieces of paper in the fax machine, you take them. If you find an extra dry erase marker on the floor you put it in your pocket. You do not stop to consider that it is someone elses. You need it. Do I have extra tape? Technically yes, but I am going to shrug my shoulders and say “sorry” because I can be pretty sure that when I do eventually run out of tape, there will be none available. When you get an email that says: come by the library if you want xyz, there is a stampede of grown people. It makes you stingy, it makes you take things that aren’t yours. An incredible amount of your energy is taken up by figuring out how you can get what you need.
I think it is easy to judge behavior when you don’t understand. I remember when I was seventeen and earning my gold award at a homeless shelter for families. Whenever we gave the kids anything, even if it was the same thing to every kid, they would steal it from each other. I thought this was ridiculous. Now I get it. Who knows when you are going to have a chance to get another pencil? Better take as many as I can get now.
It wasn’t until I started teaching in this environment that I truly understood why God would describe himself as “enough” as “more than enough.” If I believe that God is more than enough for me, (not just sing it, but really believe it) then I would act in a manner that shows I believe all of my needs will be met. I would give more. I could give away so much more because I wouldn’t have to worry about stockpiling. So much of what I don’t give comes down to trying to make sure I have enough just in case. But God says He is the enough. I don’t have to scrimp and save. If someone else asks for something I have I can certainly give it to them.
I also don’t have to take more than I need. For me right now that means food. I don’t have to take a ton of something. I can take enough, and trust that that is enough, and I will have an opportunity to eat more of it at some later junction. (Isn’t that weird? I am an adult. I do my own grocery shopping, I don’t have to eat 15 packs of fruit snacks because I can buy them whenever I want. Why do I feel like I need all of them RIGHT NOW? I have issues.)
I’m not saying that I don’t have to be responsible, or a good steward of what God has given me. I can act in a way that proves I have a never ending supply closet somewhere in my home. Because I do. Because God is enough.