On Scarcity & Abundance
I’m sitting on my couch, feet stretched out. The mosque next door has just begun their Friday sermon, and it is broadcast loud in a language that is still unfamiliar to me. The electricity is on and I am trying to be grateful instead of fearful that it will go off.
I have thought a great deal about scarcity in recent weeks. I began thinking about it after a conversation with one of my sons in Greece, where he described someone as living and loving out of scarcity instead of abundance. This stayed with me and I find myself deeply challenged.
Until moving to Kurdistan, I didn’t think much about electricity, heat, or hot water. Now, these are regular thoughts on my mind. Will the electricity be on? Will it be cold in my office? Will it be cold in my apartment? (The answer is Yes – it will be extremely cold.) Will there be enough hot water to have a shower? To wash my hair? To wash dishes? I find that I want to horde what I have, to try and capture it so it won’t go away. I think about this all the time. I am living out of fear that there will not be enough – I am living from a mindset of scarcity, not abundance.
In the book Scarcity: The New Science of Having Less and How it Defines Our Lives the authors say this: “Scarcity captures the mind…when we experience scarcity of any kind, we become absorbed by it. The mind orients automatically, powerfully, toward unfulfilled needs. For the hungry, that need is food…For the cash-strapped it might be this month’s rent…Scarcity is more than just the displeasure of having very little. It changes how we think. It imposes itself on our minds.” Similarly, Michael Beckwith says:
I fear this is how I have begun to live.
And yet, I am surrounded by people who are extraordinarily generous with their time, their food, their homes, and their help. I am surrounded by people who live with this scarcity but don’t let it affect their daily lives.
Years ago while living in Pakistan, I had a secret stash of special food. Ironically, the food I stored I no longer care for, but at the time cake mixes, taco mix, and chocolate chips were special and unavailable where we lived. I never let anyone know that I had these special, uniquely American food items. Chocolate chip cookies would appear, as if by magic, baked when no one was around to see what treasures I had hidden deep within my cupboard. I was obsessive about my secret stash.
One day, I went to the cupboard anticipating baking with some of my special supplies. I gasped in dismay. There were the unmistakable sharp marks of a rat’s teeth. I looked farther, holding my breath in hope that my beautiful, secret, special stash of food would be salvageable. It was not to be. There were rat droppings everywhere, teeth marks on bags that had been chewed through – all of it totally destroyed. I pictured the rats having their midnight feasts, an abundant feast sponsored by an unwilling, silent me in my bed. I was furious. I cried tears of anger and persecution. What had I ever done to deserve this?
My stash was gone. In those moments, I realized how tightly I held to those food items. They had become a security, a secret way to cope with what I found difficult. The longer I thought about it, the more I realized it was symbolic of the way I lived my life. I lived as one who operated out of scarcity and secret food stashes. I didn’t live out of the abundance of the joy and goodness that surrounded me. Whether it was money, food, time, or emotional capacity my subconscious mindset was one of “not enough”.
It affected me physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
There was never enough. I was not enough. I did not have enough. And God was not enough. My mindset was one of scarcity and it affected all of my life.
It has been a long time since that food stash, and in truth, after the rat incident I never again tried to store up treasures that would be eaten by rats. But I find myself thinking about that time during these long days where electricity is scarce, where heat is scarce, where I live far from the abundance I have been used to. Because even though I am not hoarding food, I am well aware that I am operating out of scarcity.
If scarcity is a mindset, then so is abundance. I recently wrote about my friend Betsy, a friend who lived her life out of abundance not out of scarcity. “Scarcity was not in her vocabulary. She gave in abundance, serving countless people. Her ears and her heart heard the wounds and tears of many. She lived her life extravagantly and radiated the joy of giving.” I ended the post by saying that I want to live like this. I want to live out of abundance.
As I write this I’m sitting in one of two coffee shops in Rania, and the electricity has just come on. Adele plays on repeat, her beautiful voice burrowed into my mind. I want to capture this moment because I am content, I am warm. And the electricity is on. But capturing the moment is yet again acting out of scarcity. So I sigh. I breathe. And Adele says “Hello!”
6 thoughts on “On Scarcity and Abundance”
“If scarcity is a mindset, then so is abundance.” I love this. Thank you.
TUE 5:47 PM
Hi. I really appreciate all your blogs. I want to respond to the SCARCITY and ABUNDANCE that I just read. My response is too long for a BLOG! Most of us can identify very well with your thoughts. Too often we are consumed with worry and fear of living in Scarcity, forgetting “Now unto Him who is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us to Him be glory by Jesus Christ throughout all ages, world without end. AMEN” Ephesians 3:20,21
You may remember that Toilet Paper was a priceless commodity in our early years in Pakistan. For locals and Europeans there were other means for this important and delicate ritual. We imported TP from the US by the crate. One of our dear friends made bookcases for us and filled the shelves with TP for a shipping crate. We refinished those bookcases and used them for years in Shikarpur as a room divider. (You may remember them). Later TP from China was imported. It was expensive and very small rolls. So we continued to import. Our last import was in the 80’s when we lived in Karachi and we treasured our supply. One day there came a warning that a possible tsunami was to hit the coast of Karachi and residents were encouraged to leave the area. We lived on the sea. We heard all the vehicles leaving and we discussed leaving also. However, from a trusted source we were told it was highly unlikely to hit Karachi. We chose to stay and our local language helper also felt comfortable in staying. He and Hu worked at the desk. I puttered around the house. Then I heard a noise, a noise I could not identify. Was it a sinister noise that we’d soon be hit by the giant ocean wave? I perked up and decided to try and find where the noise was coming from. It led me to a wall cupboard that we used for storage. I opened the door and there on the top shelves evenly stacked were rolls of our precious American imported toilet paper. Pulling the front row down to my horror I discovered an invasion of termites had been feasting on the soft tissues. Yelling for Hu who came running we pulled it all down and it all looked like delicate paper lace. Paper lace created by termites who had utterly destroyed our treasure. It didn’t take long for a verse of Scripture to pop in my mind: “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. FOR WHERE YOUR TREASURE IS, THERE YOUR HEART WILL BE ALSO.” Matthew 6:19-21. That was a moment of truth for me. I would like to say I was never bothered again by the worry and concern, even fear of living in scarcity. Not true. Even now I deal with that. Lovingly the Lord reminds me of the blessings of living in the ABUNDANCE of His love, mercy, grace , peace and joy. May God bless you as you enunciate so clearly and beautifully our own feelings and thoughts.
This has stayed with me all day. I am ashamed to admit how often I function out of a scarcity mentality. Thanks for leading me to Jesus yet again!
Thanks Marilyn for some good thoughts. My good friend Rachel Maletich is presently in your neck of the woods as is another friend Dawn Ray. The electric cuts must really prove and challenge. Do people use heaters with gas tubes ever? That’s what our daughter in Jordan often uses. Just seems like it would be a good alternative to electric when needed to stay warm :) Thats quite a story about the rat and your precious goods! Donna
On Tue, Jan 15, 2019 at 5:47 PM Marilyn R. Gardner wrote:
> Marilyn posted: ” On Scarcity & Abundance I’m sitting on my couch, feet > stretched out. The mosque next door has just begun their Friday sermon, and > it is broadcast loud in a language that is still unfamiliar to me. The > electricity is on and I am trying to be gratef” >
Very thoughtful and well expressed post. Thank you for making me think of my abundance.