Friday, October 16, 2015

Enough? Bright blue Reeboks and M&Ms

What's the first thing you remember WANTING- not needing- but WANTING something more than what you had?

For me, the year was 6th grade.  What I desperately wanted:

White Reebok "princess sneakers"

White Reebok "princess sneakers" (yes, they really were called that.) White leather, pale pink lining: perfection. "All" the girls had them and as the quiet girl on the fringes, I wanted them so I would fit in with the crowd just as much as I wanted them because they were cute.

What my kind-hearted and frugal mom bought me:

"Bright blue" Reebok sneakers

"Bright Blue" (yes, they really were called that) Reebok sneakers. They were on sale for a few dollars less than the princess style, so she snatched up the deal. Part of me was really grateful- they were super comfy and probably the most expensive shoes I'd owned up to that point. BUT there was no "fitting in" with those shoes. The other 6th grade girls started making fun of them from day 1. Were they "enough?" Yes- more than. Was I content? Not really.

This fall in Faithful Families we've been reading "The Gift of Enough: Raising Grateful Kids in a Culture of Excess" by Marianne Miller.

The Gift of Enough by Marianne Miller book cover

We've been talking about the power we have as parents to instill in our children the strength to combat today's materialistic culture with hearts of gratitude. If you're older than your mid-twenties, remember the peer pressure of your youth? Take that, and now add to it the constant "always on" comparison pressure from digital access and social media that today's generation of kids and teens face. As those who care about the next generation, our wisdom and encouragement is needed now more than ever!

Although we know we live in a culture that idolizes excess, this is not a new issue. Paul writes in Philippians 4, "I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength." He knew it was human nature to be discontent. As Christians, we know that there is no true contentment in this world apart from a life in Christ. However, we live in a world that tells us there is not true contentment apart from our stuff.

We're enjoying this book because the author, who has experience as a mom, financial counselor with Crown Financial Ministries, and has worked with teenagers in middle schools for many years, shares nuggets of practical wisdom she's learned along the way. 

She suggests a simple exercise to help us and our children understand the concept of "enough." Imagine with me a continuum which goes from SCARCITY to ENOUGH to ABUNDANCE to TOO MUCH. She contends that if we fail to understand and teach enough, we can't expect an appreciation of abundance. 

Pile of M&M candy

If I told you that you could eat as many M&Ms as you wanted, which pile would you choose? There are four choices: 
Scarcity-Enough-Abundance-Too Much illustrated in M&Ms

Which did you choose? Would you feel grateful to receive that amount of candy? Why? Take a look at the pile labeled "too much." What might happen if you ate that all at once? I can tell you from personal experience, there is definately such a thing as "too much" grape pop. Let's just say that after about 3 cans straight at a family reunion as a kid, I haven't touched the stuff since. Too much is never good for the person who gets too much. Sadly, the news headlines today are dominated with the story of yet another materially wealthy celebrity who has self-destructed as the result of too much. 

So many of us really don't understand the concept of "enough," which means when we receive abundance we're not overly excited or grateful about it. Back to my shoes- my mom thought she was giving me abundance- name brand sneakers! I struggled to see it that way because they weren't exactly what I wanted.

Imagine I'm sitting next to you in church right now. If I leaned over and handed you a couple of M&Ms would you be happy about it? Sure! It would be an unexpected surprise! In this situation, where a sweet treat is unexpected, it would feel as good as getting a giant pile! Our expectations in situations impacts our happiness. This basic lesson can lead into a much broader conversation about observing the people around us and whether they're content with what they have or always wanting more. Where does our identity come from- our stuff, or our position as a child of God? 

One final suggestion. Try out the word "enough" at home this week. Maybe it means thinking through the meaning of enough in one simple area of your own life- enough T-shirts, enough time watching TV or gaming, enough eating out. If you have kids, use it in conversation. "One brownie is enough." "You have enough stuffed animals." Help set reasonable expectations.

If this is a challenge (and it probably will be!), remember Paul's words: "I can do all this through him who gives me strength."

What's an area of your life that could use some defining of enough? I'd love to hear your thoughts!

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