My brother-in-law was born colorblind. He knew the grass was green and the sky was blue because everyone told him. But to him, it all looked gray. A few years ago, he was involved in a car accident. In the midst of a dozen terrible things resulting from it, one really interesting thing happened: he could see color. I don’t know the medical explanation, but suddenly he’s living in a world of shading and textures, realizing sky blue is not the same as water blue or Royal blue (the color of his favorite baseball team). Living in this new colorful world requires some adapting and learning. He has a whole new perspective.

I think we all need a new perspective every now and then, but especially after the last year we ‘ve had. We need to see each other and God in a way we haven’t before. To look closely and notice the textures and subtleties of each other. To celebrate things that make us alike and, maybe more importantly, things that make us di­fferent. To be a safe place for others to dream, seek, change, and be themselves. Let’s not just see blue – let’s see cobalt, navy, midnight, periwinkle and cerulean. Look at something you don’t quite understand, requiring you to get on your knees, dig in and study, and reach out to someone else to help you fully see what is in front of you.

Toilet Paper and the Scarcity Mindset

When the quarantine in our area began, we had 5 adults and a baby living in our house. My husband, son, daughter, son-in-law, granddaughter and me.

Now, this is NOT a complaint. I am so grateful we were all together during this lock down. The only thing better would have been, if for some crazy reason, my oldest son and family needed to move in with us, too! (I don’t know where we would have put them. My college son, who came home for the longest spring break in the history of spring breaks, was sleeping on an airbed in the laundry room.) I worked in my office, my husband worked in the dining room, my son studied in the living room, my daughter and son-in-law worked upstairs and the baby just crawled around from room to room. We took turns fixing meals and we played games via Zoom with the rest of the family at night. If I had to sum up our quarantine in six words, it would be: “Just looking for a quiet place!”

Just before the official lockdown in our area, I had stocked up on toilet paper at Costco. Not because I had some sort of prophetic leading, but just because we needed it. So we were in a pretty good place when the whole toilet paper shortage began. Several weeks in to the “shortage” my daughter and I were at the store and they had toilet paper on the shelves for the first time in a while. I voiced that we should grab some since they had some. My daughter responded, “But we have lots of it. We don’t need it.” My concern was that, even though we had it now, what if they didn’t have it later, when we did need it. She replied, “But, mom, what if the next person comes in and really needs it NOW, but she can’t get it because you took one you didn’t need?”

I didn’t buy toilet paper that day. 

This fear of running out came because I was listening to media and others who were saying, “This is a big deal! You need to be worried about this!” It was a big deal for some, and I was able to give some of my precious rolls away to a neighbor who had literally used up all the toilet paper she had in her house. But I didn’t need to worried about it – not yet. And it turned out that I never needed to be worried about it, because by the time I ran out of all of my Costco stock, the shortage was over.

I had fallen into a scarcity mindset. The feeling that if I don’t hold on to what I have, if I don’t stockpile when I can, if I give away any that I have, then I will suffer later. I realize that sometimes our physical resources are scarce. Proverbs says that a wise man prepares.

So what is the opposite of this scarcity mindset? We might think that the opposite is “abundance.” Brené Brown, in her book Daring Greatly, talks about this. She explains that scarcity and abundance are not opposites. The opposite of scarcity is, in fact, “enough.” A scarcity mindset and a life focused on wanting an abundance may look very much the same. (Talking about abundance the way the world describes it, not necessarily how God describes it.) If we are constantly striving for “more,” then we often feel scarce.

Give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that I need.” – Proverbs 30:7-9

When we are at peace with enough, we don’t have to be afraid of not-enough; we don’t have to hoard more than enough.

Brené Brown says, “The greatest casualties of a scarcity culture are our willingness to own our vulnerabilities and our ability to engage with the world from a place of worthiness.” 

This scarcity mindset rolls over into our jobs, our ministry, and our relationships.

In a professional environment, if you feel like there aren’t enough promotions or commission dollars or even kind words from your boss to go around, then competition becomes your driver. Competition isn’t wrong on its own, but it’s harmful when we become obsessed with getting all we can because we think there will never be enough. That’s why we fear change, it’s why we won’t help someone else or why we won’t share what we know – because if I tell you what I know then I’m not as valuable anymore. There just isn’t enough for all of us.

We see this in ministry all the time, too. We see the damage it can do to a leader and to a ministry when we are so focused on holding tight to what we have because we fear that if we share it or give it away then we won’t have enough. Or that somehow me calling out the really good things you do – in your home or work – makes me less. We don’t believe there is enough space for everyone to succeed, and when we feel that way it is really hard for us to cheer others on.

I had a conversation recently with a young single friend who said she doesn’t like to hang out with women her own age because they spend all their time picking each other apart (sometimes out loud, sometimes through jokes or jabs) and she knows that she just doesn’t measure up. She can never be or do what they are. In the insecurity that accompanies a scarcity mindset, she so easily discounts what she has to offer.

Our scarcity mindset makes us focus on what we need and what we don’t yet have. One author describes it this way:

When we focus only on the needs, our vision becomes distorted. It may seem as though we are looking up from the bottom end of a funnel that is broad and wide at the top, but narrow at the receiving end—our end, where we are waiting for what we need.  And a mindset of scarcity can creep in. Gradually, our perspective becomes defined more by what we have not yet received, rather than everything that is waiting in the funnel for us.

What do we do if we find ourselves with a scarcity mindset?

First, be thankful.

Second, remember how good God is and how much he loves us.

Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. (Matthew 6:26-33).

God gives us “all these things” that we need. He gives us enough. 

  • What in your life feels scarce?
  • What are you holding back that God wants you to share with someone else?

Pray –

We come today so grateful for all you’ve given us. For salvation, grace, compassion, guidance. For physical resources that sustain us and protect us. For opportunities to give and share what we have, to speak kind words and encourage others, to do loving things for someone who might feel unloved, and, most importantly, to share what we know about you.

And God, give us a fresh revelation of how much you love us. Thank you for loving us so lavishly.