This is the second in a three-week sermon series based on Wayne Muller’s book, a life of being, having and doing enough.
On Thanksgiving Day I found a lump in my breast. Two appointments and a week later we learned it was actually three lumps; two were definitely simple cysts that would be no problem. The third was a little suspicious. I had all three aspirated on Tuesday and everything is fine. Nothing to be worried about. But I spent two weeks with a very active imagination, and a history of a mother who died of breast cancer.
I couldn’t help but think to myself that Christmas was coming up, and, should this turn out to be very negative, there was no need to ask for any material things whatsoever. In fact, it was a really good exercise in remembering what was truly important. In this very spiritual, introspective state, what did I want for Christmas?
- I wanted my friends and family to be happy.
- I wanted any issues we were having to be resolved, because they paled in comparison to the importance of love and support and relationship.
- I wanted to give memories and love.
- I wanted my kids around me.
- I wanted to give special gifts for people to remember me by.
- I wanted our Christmas Eve service to be sacred and magical and holy and beautiful and touch hearts.
- I wanted to laugh and cry and play and sing and live every moment to its fullest.
Well, since it turns out that I’m fine, I suppose I’ll go along with receiving material things for Christmas… I wouldn’t want to deny anyone that fun, would I? But (and I know many of you have probably been here), it puts a whole different spin on life.
(For the full video version, click here.)
Disclaimer: Before we go further in exploring the concept of having enough, it’s appropriate to recognize how privileged we are to be able to have this conversation in the first place. We all have a roof over our heads, clothes on our backs and food on our shelves, while billions of people around the world do not. Perhaps when we find the balance of “enough” in our lives, we will be better suited to help the world.
As it is, we approach this concept from where we are and ask ourselves: What is true wealth? What might it feel like? And how much is enough? These are some of the answers I received when I asked our community:
- Love of family and friends
- Spiritual wealth
- Inner peace
- Enough is being happy with what you have
- To feel that your life has had meaning
- Health and security
This isn’t rocket science and, basically, we already know all of this. Yet, I’d like to raise two issues that contribute to our feeling of not having enough:
- The first goes back to our sermon from last week on Being Enough… most of us have a hard time believing that we ARE enough and so having more (love, money, time, stuff, accolades) than, or better (love, money, time, stuff, accolades) than, others helps us feel like we’re enough. Or receiving nice things from people helps us to feel loved.
- We’re bombarded with messages from the media that encourage us to believe that we need more stuff to be fulfilled and experience a life of enough.
Wayne Muller points out that the world is more than happy to try to tell you what is enough and what will make you happy. It is the job of marketing people everywhere to make you believe that you can’t live without something… a new car, a dream vacation, fancy clothes and a Martha Stewart decorated house… more of this and some of that. As long as we buy into this, we will never have enough because there is always something we won’t have!
I used the parable of the yeast and bread today (Matthew 13:33) because it spoke to me of enough. The kindom (yes, I left out the “g” on purpose, using the Inclusive Bible translation) of heaven is not a physical place, it’s a spiritual state of being. The kindom of heaven is within, Jesus tells us. We experience it when we experience oneness with the Divine, peace, deep abiding joy, love, compassion, hope. In this parable, the kindom of heaven is like yeast that leavens a really big batch of bread (like 60 pounds). With yeast, though, you need only enough… not less and not more. It is a balance – too little yeast and the bread won’t rise, too much and the consistency of the bread is wrong. The kindom of heaven is enough, it is balance.
How do we find this balance? It’s not as easy as following a recipe and getting the right amount of yeast in the bread.
Wayne Muller directs us inward. He suggests that we step back and seek the experience of our bodies to know what is enough. “But our most reliable experience of enough begins within our own visceral experience; it is a sufficiency tasted first through intimate conversation between our own fully incarnated spirit and flesh. We feel this sacramental sufficiency most reliably in the body – in the heart, chest, and belly.” Don’t trust what others tell you – advertisers, the Joneses next door – what does your heart and gut tell you. Does it really tell you that you need another pair of shoes? A bigger television? A new car? More lights on your house?
Now, I’m not telling you to turn down all your Christmas gifts, that simply denies others the blessing of giving. But our happiness does not, at the end of the day, have anything to do with how much we have. Our happiness depends on our perspective. The prospect of dying changed my perspective and restored an inner sense of balance about what was truly important in my life. Perhaps that’s why, as folks get older, they begin to simplify and downsize, they spend more time with kids and grandkids, and they want fewer things, but crave interaction and relationship.
Despite what you may have imagined this message would be about, it was not about lecturing you to clean out your closets and give things to Goodwill, or to give to charity instead of giving gifts, or to give all you own to the poor. My intent was simply to ask all of us to examine our hearts and souls in two ways. First, to work on recognizing our own enough-ness deep inside, so that we don’t live under the fallacy that something acquired or given will finally help us feel like enough. Second, to be aware of what resonates with enough in our physical bodies, and then to honor that.