About a month ago, I started thinking about what I wanted my one word for the new year to be. I had my own ideas, of course, about how I’d like the year to go, and words like travel or beauty, family, even gather, swirled in my mind, even as I recognized those weren’t the words mine to grab hold of. See, my one word has a tendency to choose me. It comes unexpectedly–the first thought upon waking, a moment of clarity during a time of prayer–and then it simply does not let go. It’s not always attractive or appealing, and there’s usually a brief period of me wrestling with it, much as Jacob did when the angel touched his hip bone after a long night of struggle with God. And then–surrender. Giving up, giving in. Allowing the word and the Spirit to move me into unchartered, surprising places in the new year.
Erin Loechner wrote on Instagram a few weeks ago that she has “often operated under perceived scarcity. Is there enough time in my day for this? Enough space for this? Do we have room for that? Is it essential, necessary? Are you sure?” Her words drained my breath momentarily, and I felt hot tears fluttering behind my eyes. See, I’ve lived my entire life with that exact same scarcity mentality. Always afraid of running out, always worried about lack. Always sure I’m going to come up empty-handed, somehow. Maybe it was my upbringing, the poverty, the realization that no good thing ever lasted long. Maybe it’s low-self esteem, the innate belief that I’m somehow not worthy of having those good things, so I snatch them up, try to hoard them if I happen to stumble upon some along the way. Maybe it’s just my personality: afraid of risk, preferring always the comfort and stability of a sure and familiar thing.
For all this and more, my one word for 2019 is enough. Because, as Erin continues, “abundance exists. There is enough time to go around, enough space for us all. There always has been.“
My fear has always been not having enough. Not being enough. And yet, if I look back, I can see what God has been speaking to me all along: “I am giving you manna.”
Manna. The mystery substance that God fed his people with in Exodus 16. Daily nourishment that literally means “What is it?” The Israelites were sent fresh manna each morning, and each person was to gather enough for their need: no more, and no less. If they tried to hoard their leftovers it spoiled, except for on their Sabbath, when they would have need of their reserves. For forty years, the Israelites ate manna. For forty years, it was a gift straight from God, and it sustained them. And it wasn’t until they’d reached their promised destination that it was replaced with the milk and honey of abundance.
The manna is sufficient for the journey. Once gone, I hunger like the Israelites. But God fills us with enough; no more, and no less. We don’t get to hoard or stockpile; we are given only what we need, as we need it. And this is grace.
It’s a mindset that’s so counterintuitive to the culture of mass accumulation that we live in, and I suppose that might be what Jesus was touching on when he talked about his upside down kingdom. This life of faith seems strange, sometimes. And by no means do I do it perfectly. Clearly, I am still learning the sacrament of dependence, this art of trusting what I cannot see. I am full of fear sometimes. I complain. I doubt. And through it all, he is still good, and he is still enough.
Some of my favorite books are C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia. In The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, the Pevensie children push past a rows of fur coats before emerging from the wardrobe into a cold, snowy forest. Susan, the responsible older sister (and probably the character I relate most to), suggests they each take a coat to keep warm. She is practical, responsible. She simply wants to be prepared. But, as Heidi Haverkamp points out, preparation “can become an end and…at some point, we have to let go of preparing and just step forward in faith.”
However, the most compelling thing about Susan, I think, is she “shows us that what we need may already be in front of us, if we are aware to notice. The fur coats were there when they needed them. The children meet others along the way who guide them and feed them. That doesn’t mean the journey is easy or that they’re never cold, wet, or hungry; but, because they have one another and allow themselves to accept help from others, they have enough” (emphasis mine).
I think that my word for the new year is here to teach me to be where my feet are and seek sufficiency there. It’s to remind me to taste and see that he is good, and his faithfulness is promised, and we will have enough for our adoption. It’s to encourage me to be who I am, as I am, and remember that I am fully and completely loved without ever changing a thing. The new year can be a time to set lofty goals, and I have often fallen into the cycle of grandiose dreams and resolutions that are abandoned by, at best, the third week of January. And then December rolls around and I still haven’t lost the forty pounds, I’m still too sarcastic sometimes, I still hold grudges for longer than I should; and, before I know it, I collapse into a puddle of my own failings and disappointment. But right here, right now, exactly as I am, I am loved. I am enough, even if I never accomplished another blessed thing for the rest of my life.
That truth is one I will wear like a weighted blanket in 2019. Enough-ness will be my home.