Enough Is As Good As A Feast: The Culture of Never Being Satisfied
"Enough is as good as a feast." Ma Ingalls said this in one of the Little House books and I've always equated it to food. In those lean times, having enough food for everyone is a blessing. But the saying has been repeating in my head over and over again the last few weeks. I could not put my finger on why but it was stuck in there and I could not shake it loose. Then I heard an acquaintance say something, something I've heard often from this person and others in my faith walk, and it became crystal clear. The something was, "You are called to do great things! God is preparing you for something awesome and you will be a world changer." I have to admit, hearing this makes me a little mad. And a whole lot lost.
I feel mad because WE LET this be the society we live in now. One where things are moving so quickly and we are constantly bombarded by ads and marketing (even from churches) to GO! DO! MORE! NOW! We are told we are in this weird competition with others and ourselves thanks to well framed Instagrams and perfectly pinned crafts and artfully fonted verses. And while I don't know who set this in motion (probably Satan), I do know that "we" are the reason it perpetuates. Mission trips and service projects have become the measuring stick by which we measure our Christian worth. (To be sure, I am all for mission trips and service projects.) The humble brag is so out of control with this generation of believers that I've often found myself on the listening end of a comment like, "Well, God spoke to my heart and I stepped out in faith and now I live in a 1.5 million dollar home!" Really?!? Did you just equate a monetary, earthly possession to how much faith you have? Is this what we think now? That God BLESSES us in monetary ways? With fading, impermanent THINGS? When someone says something like that to me, it hurts. I look at their pile of things and then at my own pile of things and wonder where my walk in faith took a wrong turn. Did I miss the voice of the Lord in my own life? My flesh wants to know where all MY things are.
But my sadness/anger/questioning, doesn't stop there. I was recently talking to a friend who is worn out. Marriage, kids, work, the holidays...it's taking a toll. They said they wished they could walk away. I asked what they could do to change their job. Of course, like many of us have been, they can't change jobs because of their financial obligations. And their marriage is a little strained because they ONLY have just enough. And the things this couple fight about are the same things we all fight about. Dirty dishes, lack of sleep, perceived unfairness. Why do we punish our marriages and families like this? When did being satisfied become a bad thing? And I don't mean complacency. That is a place where you've given up, you don't care, and life is passing you by. I mean fulfilled with the right now, where regret is not nagging you to be sorry and unrealistic expectations are not pushing you so far into the future, you lose hope. It is hard to break the cycle of expectations but they feed an unhealthy hunger. The hunger that tells us where we are and what we have is not good enough. Would you ever look in the eyes of your child and tell them that their best is not good enough? Yeah, God doesn't do that either.
In all my wondering and range of emotions over what was said, by Ma Ingalls and that acquaintance, two women came to mind.
Ruth and Mary.
Ruth had a hard choice to make. She could either go back home to her parent's house where she would likely be a spinster or maybe marry a man who didn't mind having a widow for a wife, OR she could stay in a foreign land with her mother in law, who would be destitute and alone without her. Ruth did what was right. She pledged her faith to God and stayed with Naomi. I wonder if she was angry about it though. Have you ever decided to do the absolute right thing but felt a little jaded because of what you were giving up to do so? I mean, Naomi was terribly grief stricken and old. Maybe Ruth felt mad, maybe not. In any event, it was up to her to provide for them. She had to glean the fields. You realize this means digging through dirt piles and broken stalks to find whatever food was left worth eating? That is some hard work. And to find enough to feed both of them for an indeterminate amount of time? Talk about pressure. But she faithfully did what she should and Boaz married her. She gave birth to Jesse and the line of David was established.
Am I missing something here? What great thing did Ruth single handedly accomplish? She just lived her life in faith. She was a wife and mother and that is basically it. Her purpose was great in God's plan...but to us, seems rather mundane.
Then there is Mary, mother of Jesus. Her story starts off with such a BANG! Angels and immaculate conception and Magi bearing gifts. Wow! To be the mother of the Son of God! But then we don't know what happened next, except for a story about Jesus as a child in the temple. I can imagine what happened though. Mary and Joseph lived their married life. They had more kids. She cooked, cleaned, wiped snotty noses, and probably thought to herself, "REALLY GOD? ...this?...THIS is what I signed up for?" I know, because Mary was human like the rest of us, that she probably felt worn out and tired and wondered the what ifs. And then to see God's plan carried out, before her eyes, through the sacrifice of her firstborn? Lord, I can only imagine a sliver of her pain. Did her greatness feel very great?
These women, who we all know on a first name basis, were every day people. They were not living a world changing existence on a daily basis. They were loving their husbands, raising their children, and probably hoping everything would just be ok. They were me. They were you. And our worlds ARE changed because of them but not in any way they expected, I'm sure.
So when I find myself measuring piles of earthly treasures, the number of mission trips I haven't been on or feeling like I've missed some imaginary boat to my greatness, I will look at my children...my husband...my heart. I will know that being satisfied is not a sin because enough IS as good as a feast. And I will remember that, like the *sometimes* mundane lives of Ruth or Mary, we are not necessarily called to do great things...
We are called to have great faith.