On top of a garbage heap in Nicaragua, we portioned out food; we set up tables of provision while they dug through the trash. I pried open a full plastic bin while he pried off a tin coffee can lid. I picked up a spoon while she gathered bottles and cans. I tip-toed around glass while she dove right into the pile. Metal table legs balanced precariously sinking into the dump–there was no level ground, we just hoped it would stand.
And when they came, we portioned out the meal–rice and beans so they’d be full, eggs for some protein, fried cheese just because it was a treat. I was careful with my portions, fairness was my goal. In the dump, they fought for the most valuable trash–at our table there would be no fighting, no disappointment that he got more than his share.
When the eggs started to run out, I added a scoop of beans and rice. It was the best I could do and I prayed there would be enough.
Not enough time with friends, they seem to be making memories together faster than I can catch up.
Not enough wisdom, I’m making things up as I go along.
Not enough opportunities, breakthrough, celebration, rest.
No, there is never enough these days.
And that’s how I know I’m solidly planted in the wilderness.
Because the myth of the wilderness is that there is never enough. And a funny thing happens when there isn’t enough. My hands close in fists, clenching the small bit I have so that it doesn’t get stolen away. And in holding on tightly, I squeeze the very life out of the little I’m holding onto.
And when there isn’t enough, everything that comes along must be pounced on quickly, if I don’t snatch it up someone else will. I claim my territory before I even know where I want to set up camp for fear that it will be gone by the time I decide. Sometimes I’m not sure if I grab on because I actually want to or just to keep someone else from getting more. Healthy, I know.
So, this verse about manna in the wilderness makes me angry.
Some gathered a lot, some only a little. But when they measured it out, everyone had just enough. Those who gathered a lot had nothing left over, and those who gathered only a little had enough. Each family had just what it needed.
Because all I can see is that some gathered a little and some gathered a lot. Some filled buckets full of provision without even knowing what they had picked. Some piled high plates of opportunity, did they even look around? Some carried gallons, some held only spoonfuls, how was this fair? Was there rushing to the pile, scrambling to claim what was theirs?
In my world there would be calculation, rations, portions and shares.
But that is not the way of the wilderness. The wilderness isn’t about claiming what we see with our eyes, it’s about looking into the emptiness and finding all that we lack.
Though the gathering was uneven, unfair by my count, somehow everyone had just what they needed, nothing left over, no one coming up short. Which makes no sense to the running tab that’s always counting in my brain.
Abundance isn’t about having more than we need, abundance is having access to the unending source.
I’m desperate to live from a place that believes there’s always enough, that believes your abundance doesn’t equal my lack. Portion is not a rolling tide pulling from your shore to fill up mine. Portion is offered from the deepest ocean depths, spilling outward across shorelines, it’s only measurement marked on my own sand.
Many are running to the wilderness these days because they’ve learned that when plenty is visible, people have already staked their claim. But when plenty is a daily provision, a daily relying on the One Who Provides, there is always enough to go around.
The work of my soul in this wilderness season is to pry open my hands, let go of what I think I’ve already claimed. To look into the vastness and swirling of sand and believe at just the right time the food will appear. And to practice the rhythms of my response, “The portions aren’t fair, but there is always enough.”