Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Scarcity vs Contentment

The man who thinks nothing of goods has freed himself from quarrels and disputes. But the lover of possessions will fight to the death for a needle.  –John Climacus

John Climacus was born in 570 and lived as a monk on Mount Sinai in Egypt. Yet his wisdom is timeless. For it is not the amount of one’s possessions that makes one possessive, it is the inner disposition of heart.

Possessiveness is rooted in a disposition of scarcity, a fear of there not being enough. It isn’t limited only to possessions. I have known people who are possessive of spouses or friends. They see love as a scarce resource. Possessiveness can extend to experiences, where a fear of missing out keeps one always focused on the next vacation, the next concert, the next big event.

Scarcity tells us that we are not enough just as we are and that having more, doing more, or receiving more attention will assuage our insecurity. But this is fear’s way of blinding us from trusting God, who loves us as we are and whose love and provision are abundant and limitless.

When our inner disposition is fear, there is always something to protect and defend. Fear builds walls. When I live in fear, I see situations and people as a threat to my well-being. This happens in obvious ways, but also in ways so subtle and insidious that we may not recognize fear as the driving force. When we are jealous of another because they get more attention than we do, when we worry about what others think of us, when we are obsessed with holding and increasing our possessions, fear is controlling how we see the world and how we see ourselves.

When our inner disposition is contentment, we can share our time and possessions freely with others. We don’t build walls when we live from a place of abundance. We don’t have to quarrel with others when we have nothing to protect or defend. When we can be content with however others think of us, when we act out of desire for the well-being of another and don’t need to be appreciated or recognized, we can come to know the inner peace that passes understanding.

All around us is a culture of fear and scarcity. But we don’t have to buy into that way of seeing the world. That way is a way of bondage. The way of abundance is the way of freedom.

Thursday, June 7, 2018

The Gift of Communities

I haven’t blogged in a while. I’ve been out of town a lot recently. Being gone, especially the three weeks I was in North Carolina for yoga teacher training, has reminded me how much communities nourish and sustain me. I missed my people. I was grateful for texts from friends offering encouragement and letting me know I was missed. When I was fatigued at day’s end, these messages mattered to me.

It matters that we are part of a community, or of several communities. Studies show that being an active part of a community, be it religious organization or the people you regularly exercise with, enhances our health. It truly does take a village, not only to raise children but to maintain our sense of well-being.

What I likewise noticed was how my fellow teacher trainees became a community over the three weeks we spent together. We were quite a diverse group—different ages, different beliefs and values, and from different places. Yet, to my knowledge, no one let their differences get in the way of hospitality to or compassion for one another. We were there for a common purpose and that transcended the differences among us.

In a culture that values individuality, where your individual preferences are catered to by restaurants and retailers, it is sometimes easy to forget the value of community. The divisiveness we see in our country today shows me that we value our individual preferences over community. Fear of “the other” leads to isolation, and there is nothing nurturing or sustaining about isolation.

Joy cannot exist in an environment of isolation, because we need one another in order to share joy. And times of sorrow are better borne among community. We grow by exposure to more than what we already know. If communities exist only to close off others, to promote homogenous thinking, they are unhealthy communities to belong to. The common ground of such communities is fear, and fear cannot coexist with joy. Fear never nourishes us. Opening ourselves to different ideas and people is what makes community rich and healthy.

I am grateful for all my communities. They are diverse, yet they are all filled with hospitality and love. As I wrote on a recent Instagram post, home is where you give and receive love. And love, especially love given and received in community, is necessary for us to flourish.