More Than Enough?
In Fall 1999, my husband and I spent my sabbatical semester at a seminary in Nairobi, Kenya. Stunning beauty surrounded us: flaming sunsets and colorful sunrises, flowering trees and shrubs, brilliant birds, sassy monkeys, hungry dogs, hungry chickens, goats and cows. Nearly everyone lived on the seminary campus: students, faculty, staff and administrators, all with their families.
Classes met in one of two long, converted chicken coops. The converted chicken coops also housed faculty offices, a small xerox room, and a small bookstore with a small inventory.
We purchased and shipped textbooks in advance, not knowing how many would sign up for our courses, or whether students would be able to buy the books.
Paper was scarce. My students made notes in tiny handwriting, using all margins and both sides of the paper. Chalkboards were old and pitted, difficult to write on and almost impossible to erase.
Every window was drafty. During the dry season fine, red dust quickly coated everything. During the rainy season thick red mud replaced fine red dust, until it too became fine red dust.
Electricity was fickle. Working telephones were scarce. Refrigerators were a luxury. Medical services for students and staff were almost nonexistent.
I came home knowing I have more than enough. At the seminary where I taught, I had more than enough paper, electricity, chalkboards, chairs, books and classrooms. The seminary always needed more money. But guess what? I had more than enough of that, too.
Comparisons are tricky. Especially if all I do is compare myself with others here or elsewhere. It’s easy for me to get trapped and paralyzed. Caught somewhere between guilt, discontent, anxiety and envy.
- Guilt because I know I have more than enough
- Discontent because I don’t have what I think I need
- Anxiety because I never have enough of what I think I need
- Envy because I don’t have as much as that other person up the road, over the river or across the street
Christian faith invites me to consider Jesus. It isn’t about what I have or don’t have. Or how I measure up to other people. It’s about what I’ve been given. It’s about finding, as Jesus did, more than enough in what God has given me. This includes the gift of women, men, young people and children whose lives have intersected mine.
I believe God has given us more than enough to feed our deep human hunger; more than enough to engage the confusion and messiness of human history; and more than enough to sustain us in our human suffering and death. If we’re willing to go there.
I’m not Jesus. I haven’t been sent to save the world. I’m one of Jesus’ human sisters and brothers, learning to accept my God-given human limitations and the reality of my failures. I’m also learning to work with others to do what we can do, not what we cannot do.
Sometimes I get it. Always, I count on this: God loves this world and us so much as human beings, that God dared to engage us within all the confusion and messiness of this world. In Jesus, God saw us, touched us, listened to us and spoke with us—with an open, vulnerable heart, open hands, and truth that sometimes hurt.
It’s OK if I don’t get it all right. There’s more than enough good news, forgiveness and courage to go around. Especially courage to change the things I can, right now.
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© Elouise Renich Fraser, 5 February 2015
Excerpt adapted from a March 2004 seminary presentation