Never Enough: Thoughts on the Art of Scarcity

As the beginning of 2013 approached, I was feeling some internal pressure to write an obligatory New Years blog post… stating all the beautiful and not-so-beautiful moments of 2012 and then conversely all that I look forward to in 2013. And though I think reflection is incredibly important, I didn’t quite get that written in time. So in typical drive thru fashion, I’ll quickly state a few things that stuck out for me (and I’d love to hear some that stuck out for you too), and then move onto a topic that’s been heavy on my thoughts: scarcity. More to come on that in a second.

2012 Highlights (in no particular order):

1) A trip to Asheville, North Carolina: A city of activists… a place I’d love to end up.

2) Chopping off my hair: Having short hair is the most economical decision I’ve ever made. Saves time and hair product expense. And it helps me to not look so nerdy all the time. I can use all the help I can get.

3) Writing for BioLogos: A organization that explores the compatibility of evolutionary creation and biblical faith.

4) Shaking Anne Lamott’s hand

5) Hearing Ani Difranco sing “32 Flavors” live

6) The Our Emptying Church blog series, which has brought more joy to me than many other things in 2012.

7) Exploring the Rocky Mountains of Colorado with two of my favorite chicas in the world (and getting to reunite with a long lost friend).

8) Meeting the very cool and talented Chris Adams at a conference and later joining in on a Lifeway Women’s Generational Discussion, which taught me how productive graceful dialogue can be.

9) First reading Rachel Held Evans blog and then getting to have a conversation with her. What a beautiful, beautiful woman. I’m so thankful for her voice, which has given dignity to folks… especially women, encouraging and empowering them to love God and love people. Eshet Chayil!

10) Sitting down to many coffee dates with ministers who are working towards justice, peace, and love. And then having the privilege of sitting under their instruction.

So there’s a couple highlights for me though the list could go on and on… I have met some absolutely beautiful people in 2012.

Now I should probably dive into the obligatory New Years Resolutions, but I’d rather talk about something a little less discussed, but that I’d like to focus on big time in 2013. Scarcity. The feeling of never having enough. Enough money. Enough love. Enough time. Enough security. Enough success. Enough power. Enough perfection. We live scarcity everyday.

I’ve been reading Brene Brown’s new book about her research on vulnerability and shame, called: Daring Greatly.

Dr. Brown quotes Lynn Twist, a global activist who writes about scarcity:

“For me and for many of us, our first waking thought of the day is “I didn’t get enough sleep.” The next one is “I don’t have enough time.” Whether true or not, that thought of not enough occurs to us automatically before we even think to question or examine it…. Before we even sit up in bed, before our feet touch the floor, we’re already inadequate, already behind, already losing, already lacking something…. This internal condition of scarcity, this mind-set of scarcity, lives at the very heart of our jealousies, our greed, our prejudice, and our arguments with life” (The Soul of Money, p. 43-45).

We are very aware of how much we lack. Our culture, via the media, perpetuates unattainable visions of perfection and those pervade our thoughts and dictate our worth. I love what Brene says… which is, that we are comparing ourselves to fiction!

I think worrying about scarcity can take many different forms. Most obviously, we worry that we don’t have enough money. Maybe just as frequently, we worry about our physiques. But I think the elephant in the room may be that we worry about power. Does our church have enough power and political influence? How can we control culture? Will my children listen to me? How can I control the people in my life? How can I control my significant other? We relish control because it gives a false sense of security. Control makes us worried and scared and frankly, at one another’s throats.

Dr. Brown’s research shows that the counter-attack on scarcity is not abundance, but rather, wholeheartedness. The idea of living with vulnerability and worthiness, facing uncertainty, exposure, and emotional risks while knowing deep down, that I am enough.

I want to make a clear distinction between fighting scarcity and being content with the status quo. There are some things in this state, this country, and this world that I am not and will never be content with, most of which include inequality, patriarchy, discrimination, and injustice. Regarding these things, I have no excuse to remain silent or content. However, I completely identify with Brene’s research. In 2012, I tried to cut out a majority of time spent on TV, news, the radio, and even movies because I felt a little bit angry about the images I was being fed. I was angry about the way the media portrays women’s bodies as objects, about how the news channels frequently feed hysteria, hype, and fear about anything and everything you could possibly imagine, about how video games and movies are incredibly violent and portray war as something glorious. I was angry about receiving subtle messages about how I should think or vote. Isn’t this my obligation to research, reflect on, and decide for myself? I was angry about the amount of time I spent listening to someone else’s fictional life.

It turned out to be a good decision for me. I plan on cutting back even more media in 2013 because I want to live. I don’t want to salivate at fictional representations of perfection and then claw my way through life trying to match them.

To define my worthiness by how I love, how I treat folks, how I listen to people who I disagree with, how I give up power and invite in vulnerability… these are the things I am interested in. I want to be able to accept that I’ll never be extremely wealthy, the most trendy chica on the block, or the best statistician in the bunch. I want to be content with that.

And I think it’s possible, with great intentionality and discipline, to slap scarcity in the face.

What are some of your beautiful 2012 moments? What are you resolved to do in 2013?

**If you’d like to check out Brene’s new book, Daring Greatly, here’s the link. I’d highly recommend it!

6 thoughts on “Never Enough: Thoughts on the Art of Scarcity

  1. More awesome sauce. Our desires are unquenchable. Our fear-driven sense of scarcity ensures we will always be wanting more. As the old saying goes: "Too much is not enough." To live–truly live–within our boundaries, to want what we have, to be grateful for what we have & what we are, that is our challenge.

  2. I love what you said about "wanting what we have." That's a big deal and one that I would like to embrace. Being grateful for possessions, but not letting them possess me by the constant need for more. Thanks for weighing in!

  3. love it. When I think of scarcity, I often think of the wanting of material possessions. But I like the idea, well not like but liked hearing it portrayed, of not having enough time, sleep, control. These are things that I struggle with for sure and I don't think I've ever looked at it from this view. As always, you challenge me in a wonderful way. And i'm honored to have made your drive thru list of great moments in 2012!! more to come in 2013, love you!!

  4. Yes! I totally agree– I'm just beginning to see scarcity in a more broad perspective than my previous one which was based on material possessions. It's really helping me to see that I am actually ok– life is ok– even beautiful. Honored to have you on the list too, dear friend! Love you!

  5. Kate, thanks for all the food for thought! We share the desire to escape the oppressing media, with its confining definitions of "being acceptable" as a woman. Thank the Lord that I am not wealthy in the way that our country defines it! (I'm not sure that kind of change would be good for me.) I have a lowly, unrecognized service job in a lovely small town, and the idea of wearing clothes to work that are newer than 2001 era is almost foolish, considering the stains or spills they will likely receive. The only people I am sincerely interested in impressing are my family members, which is a little unfortunate, since they see the good, the bad, and the ugly!! šŸ™‚ The highlight of my year was going to Ukraine to minister to orphans and to be with family there. My prayer and fervent hope is that somehow God spoke His love to the children and others through our efforts. Unfortunately, the lack of sleep, and the stress of organizing and schlepping supplies around, took quite an edge off of whatever charm I can pull off these days with 2 aging mothers and a gorgeous 17-year old daughter, who is yearning for freedom! I feel frumpy and frankly, sometimes grumpy… which is the opposite of what I'd like to be. But, mixed in with all of the fleshly feelings, is a sense of being extremely blessed! I once read that anyone who can read and owns a book, is wealthier than 95% of individuals in the world. By that definition, there must be very few people in America who are not wealthy! Further, I am blessed with a considerate, sweet husband, and a funny, charming daughter who put up with my bossy ways at home. When I read in Philippians of our precious Lord Jesus Christ, "Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness", I am absolutely amazed and humbled by His love for me! To communicate that love to the world around me… well, that's my wish for 2013!! May the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you, my sweet sister in Him. Meeting you and our group of travelers was a blessing! Debbie

  6. Debbie, I absolutely loved your comment! Thanks for your voice here! I am glad we can identify with each other in our pursuit to get away from some pressures of the media. So glad to hear that Ukraine was a highlight for you this year… I would agree with that as well. I often feel that the busyness of life does detract from the intentionality I want to live with. I know that a great amount of your time is spent in service to others and that you consider this a joy, which was a good lesson to learn from you in our short time together. I know that 2013 will bring many instances where your love for Christ, biology, and your family will intersect in important and beautiful ways. Grace and peace to you, my friend! I am grateful to know you.

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