Holly and I watched The Squid and the Whale the other night. Wow. I don't think I can call it a "great movie" because that makes it sound entertaining. It was "disturbing" in its authenticity and accurate portrayal of life. At least of a life I knew as a child.
This post isn't about that movie. The movie just stirred and crystallized a few thoughts for me and has had me thinking ever since.
I grew up knowing scarcity. My parents divorced early on...I believe I was in 1st grade. My mother worked a full-time job and the three of us kids were the token latch-keys of the 80s. My parents did the best they knew how, but it felt a bit like we were often in the margins.
I lived with my mother, older brother and younger sister. We ate simple meals, never stocked sodas in the fridge (except the Diet Dr. Pepper's my stepdad was fond of). I didn't get much of an allowance. It's not that my parents were stingy or anything like that...I just don't think the money was there. Still, we'd take family vacations...usually a weekend camping trip and the yearly trip down to the coast.
We saw my father every other weekend. His job took him away during the week, so we'd see him just a few days each month. He'd have us into his small one-bedroom apartment and we'd eat Wolf Brand Chili and SPAM. (Yes, in the 80s in Texas people actually ate that stuff.)
My father re-married shortly after my parent's divorce. My stepmother had two sons from a previous marriage. Time spent with that side of the family had it's own kind of scarcity...not as much economic (although there was that) as it was relational. Raising 5 kids in a mixed family was no simple thing. There was simply never enough attention to go around.
I got myself into all sorts of trouble as a child. Some said I was acting out to get my mother's attention (again there was an apparent deficit of that being that she was now re-imagining her own life sans-husband...and we just didn't seem to get along for a good part of my childhood). I stole from the neighborhood stores, always wanted stuff I couldn't afford, asking to borrow things from sordid friends and family members.
My stepmother remembers me referencing the price of any product that was ever brought up in conversation. "I got a new scooter," my cousin would say. I'd reply, "Oh cool. Those are like 50 bucks, right, at the mall?" I was always aware of money...that I never seemed to have.
I know that scarcity was a part of the recession of the 80s...and it was also a part of the Middle-Class American Way of Life. I wasn't necessarily alone nor am I writing now to bitch and moan about how bad my childhood was. I have just become aware of these thoughts/feelings recently. The movie, like I said, brought out some feelings I haven't dealt with in a long time.
As I am taking stock of my own life and the rhythms my family observes, I am fully aware of how I run around crazed by my world's scarcity. Never enough time, never enough energy, gotta do or die or the moment will pass and never come back, have I missed my chance?
And you know what people who live a scarcity-centered life do? They starve themselves and then they splurge. So, instead of having a healthy relationship with food or travel or spending or whatnot, I tend towards the hyperbolic from time to time. My scarcity tells me that there's never enough, so just go big from time to time.
I wonder if the story that our ancestors spun about God says something to this...that our world is not bound to scarcity, but is made for abundance...not abundance in some sort of "God wants you to be rich" sense...but that there is enough. That he provides for the birds of the air and the flowers in the fields...and how much more does he care for us?
I wonder. I feel like I am at the bottom of a pit of credit card debt, college debt, personal depression, bad life-patterns, and low self-esteem. I feel like I look around and all I see is scarcity. We're all just trying to "get by". Isn't there more than just that? Or is that the question of a privileged, educated Middle-Class American? Even as tears come to my eyes as I type this, I realize my own lack of sufficiency to live well. Is anyone sufficient?
Still, the old language of "just grace" and "let go; let God" doesn't cut it. It doesn't. If it works for you, great. It just doesn't for me. It gets people off the hook too easily.
But I don't know what to do
Is the Kingdom even breaking through?
God I hope it still is true
And so I play the hypocrite
'cause I can see that new world
But cannot live in it
And I would take you there
Yes, I would take you there
How can we help each other to move beyond seeing life as scarce? Or is this a demon of my own making? Is this something I must face-down myself?