Theology Of Enough
“Tell me again what happened to the bed?”
We were settling into the coffee shop, just a handful of hours after his plane finally landed – two days plus several hours later than expected. When he visits, my brother tends to occupy the guest room. On the way home from the airport, in the wee hours of the night, I had quickly broken the news that the guest room no longer existed.
“Well, it all started with this book . . .”
Doesn’t it always?
* * *
I love flying. Each headache associated with airports and my fellow passengers is put to rest the moment I get to pull out a book and give it my undivided attention for hours on end. Being confined to a plane gives me an excuse to do my very favorite thing – get lost in the pages.
Before leaving on a trip I sit on the floor in front of the two shelves that house my “to read” collection of books. I don’t do a whole lot of thinking about what I bring. I generally just pick intuitively. Somehow, the right books always end up on the right trip.
Shane Claiborne’s work Irresistible Revolution ended up in my carry on as I headed to Big Sky. It had been on the shelf for longer that I’d care to admit, but it was finally time for it to come along.
Shane writes about what it really means to live a life in the footsteps of Christ – and how so many American Christians are getting it so very wrong.
One of the ideas he discusses in the book is the “theology of enough” – the idea that if we were all happy with having enough – as opposed to always trying to accumulate more and more and more – there would be plenty for everyone. He uses as an example all the many homes that have beds with no one sleeping in them, while at the same time there are thousands in our country sleeping under bridges or on benches or in alleys. How can we justify this as Christians? Would Jesus really have tucked himself into his bed with three empty beds just 20 feet away knowing that less than a mile from his door were people who would be grateful for those beds?
No. No He wouldn’t have.
But we do that every day.
* * *
A few years ago, all the clutter started catching up to me. It wasn’t just taking up space in my home, but in my heart too. So I committed to a year of second-hand shopping. With the exception of undergarments (hey – a girl can have limits), I would purchase nothing that didn’t come to me with a former life.
This wasn’t an entirely left-field idea for me. My home is furnished with things that have stories that don’t involve me. In the wake of my divorce I left behind our Pottery Barn furnished home and slowly but surely created a space adored with things I found at thrift stores and flea markets and on the side of the road.
So really, this was just an extension of something I had always done, but as a woman who loves fashion, I was still worried about how I would do with this new off-shoot of the concept.
In the end, loved it.
Over the course of the year I really came to realize how often I make purchases I don’t truly need. How much more I have than I really can use. How much I really could cut back. I also came to develop a greater understanding of what I really do love, what I actually could do without, and how addicted to retail therapy we are as a society. It was a great shift.
* * *
Regardless of how great a shift it was, after reaching the end of Netflix, I found myself hopping back onto the retail therapy train while I was going through chemo over the summer. It started innocently enough – lose 25 pounds in a month’s time and you’re bound to need some new clothes. And I wasn’t exactly up to hitting the thrift stores. So to the internet I went.
But for as much as it might have helped for a second, the arrival of all the stuff just made my heart feel sicker.
By the time chemo was ended, so was my tolerance for all the things.
* * *
I gathered with some friends for Thanksgiving dinner this year, four of us and enough food to feed at least sixteen. The sheer quantity of the food we had prepared was overwhelming. We had hardly made a dent in it after each of us went back for seconds.
As we were discussing divvying up the leftovers, one of us had the idea that there were people who needed that food far more than any of us did. So three of us plated up the leftovers, packed them into the truck along with jugs of tea and pieces of chocolate, and we spent the late afternoon hours driving around the city sharing our abundance with those who had none.
We didn’t need all that food.
We only needed enough.
* * *
In the days that followed my return from Big Sky I took to cleaning out the house. Car load after car load has found its way to Goodwill. Clothes, dishes, appliances, books.
And then just after Thanksgiving, and email went out to our neighborhood about a formerly homeless woman who had just gotten her first apartment. She and her young son were finally off the streets. But they had no beds.
I had a bed.
A bed that stayed empty about 360 days a year.
So at the crack of dawn on a Saturday morning, two men I had never seen before helped me move it out of my house and into their truck, where it would make the ride to a new apartment.
I already have a bed for me. Hope has one too.
We have enough.
* * *
Since my return from Montana I’ve felt a shift in the way I think about consumerism and the places I direct my spending. Its becoming increasingly important to me that I research and understand the labor practices of the places I support. That I return to a practice of buying second-hand. That I support local businesses whenever possible.
I also feel a strong pull back toward the middle – away from the place of excess that I had slowly crept back into and closer to the space where what I need is plenty. No more no less.
I am being called back to the place of enough.