A couple of years ago, Chris Rice, a student at Duke Divinity School, recalled what his mentor, John Alexander, had taught him about essentials: "It is enough to care for each other, to forgive each other, and to wash the dishes. The rest of life ... [is] details" ("Sojourners," July-August, 2001).
How easy it is to lose track of what is enough - to get so embroiled in a world saturated with striving and grasping and clinching deals that there's no time left for caring for ourselves, our loved ones, or our world.
Even the convivial conversation people once enjoyed with friends over the kitchen sink tends to be replaced by the dull roar of the dishwasher. And instead of that warm intimacy and exchange of ideas with those we love and respect, the time we save is often spent on instant messaging some stranger at a safe distance over the Internet.
Even if we're not missing the fun of cleaning up together after a meal, what about Mr. Alexander's other observations? Are we making time in our busy lives to care for each other properly - which sometimes might include the need to forgive one another's foibles and mistakes? We're not talking here of just keeping within cellphone or e-mail range, but within hugging distance, within eye contact - close enough to reach out and lift others to their feet when necessary.
I recently talked with a woman who three years ago gave up an office job in the city with regular hours and a steady paycheck to open her own business, working alone without support staff.
"There's no going back for me," she rejoiced. "Having your own business gives you the power to say no. That's what you've given yourself, and it's very precious. You soon learn what is enough."
Everyone has the power to say no. It's just that part of "No-ing" is knowing what is enough - what's worth having and what one's true needs are. Good evaluation. Sound priorities. A readiness to make changes. And, I would add, an alertness to receive spiritual insights.
The Bible is a good starting place. "Consider how the lilies grow," said Jesus. "They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these." Jesus was in the midst of telling his followers that when they are "rich toward God" they need not worry about their lives, and certainly not about what they will eat or wear (see Luke 12:21-27, New International Version).
Speaking of God as creative Mind, Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of the Monitor, wrote, "God could not put Mind into matter nor infinite Spirit into finite form to dress it and keep it, - to make it beautiful or to cause it to live and grow. Man is God's reflection, needing no cultivation, but ever beautiful and complete ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," page 527).
The message is plain. The heavenly Father's work is complete. Because of our relationship to Him, we're well cared for. His riches are available to all of us. It is enough to depend on God. We can slow down the pace of our lives - even switch off the computer and the dishwasher - and still be satisfied.
When we understand this, we'll be less likely to search for happiness on the run, gasping for breath between e-mails and phone messages. We'll sweat less over the details.
We may measure our progress by what we choose to drop rather than what we are able to acquire. And we'll stop comparing our lives with our neighbors' or with those of picture- perfect families in glossy magazines.
We'll focus less on what we think we lack and more on the abundance that is already ours - because God has given it to us. That is enough.
O the depth of the riches
both of the wisdom and knowledge of God!