I admit it. When I hear the word abundance, I usually imagine food. A banquet table loaded with savory dishes. A full-to-bursting pantry just prior to the holidays. The point? Food-related or not, when I think abundance, I always think more than enough.
Abundance, I thought, was what my life was all about. And when I stopped to count my blessings recently, I realized just how many things - both tangible and intangible - I had to be grateful for. Many wonderful friends. A life filled with joy.
What's heartening is that a life of abundance doesn't just belong to a chosen few. In her book "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," Mary Baker Eddy put it this way: "Are we really grateful for the good already received? Then we shall avail ourselves of the blessings we have, and thus be fitted to receive more" (page 3).
That's a promise that applies to everyone because it's a promise based on this fact: that abundance is really a state of mind. It's expectancy and gratitude. It's trust that, because God loves us, He would never withhold anything good. And that because we're His children, we have been and will be taken care of for all time.
Given my love for this "God showers us with blessings" idea, I was surprised when, earlier this year, I found myself feeling deprived when one of my relationships started taking a different direction than I'd hoped it would. It was a promising friendship that had the potential for romance. But just when I thought things might be headed down that road, everything shifted. Someone else came into the picture, and I was left feeling confused - and hurt.
In a way, I was annoyed with myself for perhaps reading things into this relationship that were never there. But mostly I was just disappointed, and I wondered if it was even worth trying to develop the friendship further.
What I really needed, I thought, was some guidance. So I decided to pray. "God," I prayed, "I do trust You. Even though I'm not sure what's going on here, I trust that it's good because all You give me is good. Please help me to see that good, though, because right now it feels pretty abstract."
That's when I heard it. The big question. "What," God asked me, "would get you feeling that this friendship isn't good? What would try to make you believe that you're not living a life of abundance right this moment?"
That's when it occurred to me: Living a life of abundance isn't just about living a life of cheerful expectancy. It's really about accepting God's definition of goodness rather than my own. Abundance means not pigeonholing the good in my life by defining it as good only if it matches up with my expectations or satisfies my requirements. It means not outlining or delineating. It means leaving the designation good totally up to God.
"After all," God reminded me, "that's been My job since the beginning." Very true, I thought. In the first chapter of Genesis, when God creates - and then takes a look at - everything He's made, He sees that it's "very good." He defines it as very good.
This was one of those "wow" moments for me, because I suddenly saw that there was more good in my life than I'd ever imagined. Come to think of it, even beyond this relationship (which I now found myself appreciating) there were probably dozens of things that I hadn't defined as good because they'd turned out differently from the way I'd expected or didn't fit into my current goodness mold. And that, I realized, is where humility comes in. Because it's meekness that says, even in the face of what looks like lack or loss, "God, I can trust You to show me what goodness is. The only thing that matters is Your definition."
When Jesus taught his followers the prayer that covers every human need, he prayed, in part, "Give us this day our daily bread," which Mary Baker Eddy interpreted as, "Give us grace for to-day; feed the famished affections" (Science and Health, page 17).
This prayer has a special meaning for me this Thanksgiving because it reminds me of one other facet of abundance: that we find it through God's grace. Because, as Jesus' words show, if we want good, the only place to go is to God, who is always showering us with blessings. But it's through His grace that they come to light in our lives - abundantly.