Abundance and Scarcity
by Dale S. Ryan
Recovery is about learning to receive from God's abundance.
Without knowing quite what I was
saying, I once said this in therapy: "I've been thinking about
abundance recently. . .and about how scarce it is." My therapist
was amused, I think, but not particularly surprised.
Scarcity is a big-time, major-league, world-class issue for me. Over
the years of my recovery I have come to see that scarcity-orientation
is not, for me, just a situational reality. Scarcity is something
which I experience as one of the core conditions of existence - it is
what IS. There is not enough! We must 'make do' with what little we
have. Sometimes what there is must be carefully preserved, or saved
for special occasions or distributed carefully so as not to deplete
the already limited supply.
I won't take the space to elaborate on the reasons for my familiarity
with scarcity. Those of you who have experienced abuse or neglect will
perhaps recognize the dynamic. If as a young child you lived in a
situation where there was in fact 'not enough' (emotionally,
spiritually, or physically), then this can easily become a fundamental
conviction about life. If you must adapt to a situation of scarcity in
order to survive, then scarcity may shape what you expect all of life
to be like. This is, I think, the most pernicious aftereffect of early
life experiences of scarcity - we generalize the experience and find
ourselves acting and thinking in terms of scarcity and being
scarcity-oriented people even in situations where there really is
It is spiritual scarcity which has always seemed to me to be the most
difficult. Recently I have come out of a relatively long period in
which I have experienced a scarcity of spiritual nourishment. In
church last Sunday I had a vision of myself as someone who has been
lost in a vast desert for a long time but who finally arrived at an
oasis. All through the desert wanderings I had a canteen of water with
me - but I felt it necessary to ration that water with great care in
order to make it last for a long time - believing that my survival
depended on disciplining myself not to drink too much, too deeply, of
the limited resources available to me.
As a consequence, when, in this image, I finally make it to an oasis,
two very strange things happen. First, I am hesitant to take in the
abundance. My survival depended for so long on careful rationing that
it just doesn't seem right to drink too deeply. I found myself
thinking really strange things like "maybe this water isn't
really mine or for me, maybe I should try to survive for a little
while longer on what I have left in my canteen, at least I'm sure that
I'm entitled to that much" or, if in a more paranoid frame of
mind ,"maybe the oasis water isn't safe. What if this is a trick
of some kind? A mirage? Or what if someone has poisoned the water?
" Secondly, and more perversely perhaps, I found myself proud of
my ability to 'get by'. Afterall I've been working on scarcity
management skills for a long time. I am, in fact, quite good at
survival. I can manage very well with very little, almost nothing.
'Making do' seems like a virtue to me - only surpassed by the virtue
of 'making something out of nothing'. How often our adaptations to
dyfunction seem like virtues to us!
The bottom line for me is that even in a situation where abundance is
the objective reality I find myself hesitant to receive, resistant to
joy, defended against abundance as if it were, at best, an experience
to which I am not entitled.
I am awed today by the thought that God's plans for me are for
abundance. God's grace is available to me - not just in carefully
rationed doses, not just what's left over - but all of God's grace is
available to me, all of it in it's incredible abundance. And all of
God's love is available to me. Not just what can be 'scraped together'
- it is not the grudging, passive-aggressive love which the prodigal
expected from his father - but all of God's love is available to me.
Jesus, of course, said all of this quite clearly: "The thief
comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may
have life, and have it to the full"(John 10:20). Paul affirms
this as well when he describes "God's abundant provision of
grace"(Romans 5:17) and when praying to "him who is able to
do immeasurably more than we ask or imagine" he says "I pray
that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power,
together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and
deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses
knowledge - that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness
of God."(Ephesians 3:17-19)
Will there be enough? I think so. I am fond of the way George
MacDonald puts it in one of his books: "If we will but let our
God and Father work his will with us, there can be no limit to his
enlargement of our existence, to the flood of life with which he will
overflow our consciousness. We have no conception of what life might
be, of how vast the consciousness of which we could be made capable.
If every sunlit, sail-crowded sea under blue heaven flecked with
wind-chased white filled your soul, as with a new gift of life, think
what sense of existence must be yours if he, whose thought has but
fringed its garment with the gladness of such a show, were to make his
abode with you, and while thinking of the gladness of God inside your
being, let you know and feel that he is carrying you as a Father in
May God grant you today a sense of the abundance of his grace and love
which is your rightful inheritance.
Go to Dale
Ryan's Articles in STEPS Magazine.
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