I was not much of a sleuth as a child. I must have been 7 years old before I solved “the mystery of the macaroni and cheese”. Periodically, we were treated to four or five consecutive mac and cheese dinners. It wasn’t until I paired that information with the calendar that I figured it out. It wasn’t about pleasing the children – it was about family economics. Mac and cheese was the best we could afford right before payday. What must have felt like scarcity to my parents seemed like a treat to me!
Fast forward 25 years. I’m working 12 hours a week at minimum wage as the secretary of my church. When his boss retired, my carpenter husband became self-employed. He had great skills with lumber and power tools. Returning telephone calls, completing bids, scheduling jobs – not so much! Plus there’s the weather factor; there are times in winter when it’s too cold or too wet to pour concrete (the pivotal early step upon which all future aspects of construction rely.) There were stretches of weeks, even months, when he did not work, and mine was the only income. But we had venison in the freezer, beans in the pantry, and endless quarts of canned vegetables from our garden. We feasted, and the meals never felt like “scarcity”…..unless, like our daughters, one wasn’t a fan of beans!
I can still remember the moment I learned that others might view family finances through a different lens. One winter day, young women from my church were seated in a living room overlooking Lake Lowell, planning the church’s Easter Breakfast. Our hostess shared her financial fearfulness; the prospect of scarcity absolutely terrified her. I hope my facial expression didn’t betray my incredulity! Her physician husband’s consistent monthly salary was six times ours. Her house had triple the square footage, with zero hand-me-down furniture. By my logic, she had every reason to feel confident, while I had every reason to feel frightened. Puzzling over this for weeks, I concluded that fear and “the scarcity mindset” may not be based on objective facts. They are perspectives, points of view often related to childhood experiences, the stories we tell ourselves, and/or where one places one’s trust.
I write this as my congregation approaches our annual meeting where a budget will be passed. As expected, during the budget-planning process, voices of scarcity joined the conversation. But there were also voices reminding us of the objective evidence: that, despite two years of pandemic, our congregation has experienced a decade of financial stability. We follow a God of abundance; we must not forget whom we serve. Jeremiah 29:11 “For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the LORD, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.”
Lord, give us your perspective. Help us to feel gratitude for today and look ahead to the future, confident of your loving provision. Amen.