Usually, when I talk about abundance I am talking about the kind of life Jesus came to bring. I'm talking about overflowing cups and about grace that is more than enough. I'm talking about bust-at-the-seams joy and about delight that chases sunlight. Usually, when I talk about abundance, it sounds like things you want to have seeping out from the pores of your life.
Then I read these words from Francis Schaeffer in True Spirituality,
"We are surrounded by a world that says no to nothing. When we are surrounded with this sort of mentality, in which everything is judged by binges and by success, then suddenly to be told that in the Christian life there is to be this strong negative aspect of saying no to things and no to self, it must seem hard. And if it does not feel hard to us, we are not really letting it speak to us." - Schaeffer, True Spirituality
This is a different, empty abundance, and it is everywhere. I can literally think of absolutely any desire and then indulge at some point on my commute home from work. Feeling sad? Eat cake. Feeling tired? Buy a latte. Feeling lonely? Arrange a meet up with friends. Feeling overcrowded? Pick up takeout and watch netflix. Feeling poor? Swipe your plastic to prove you can still splurge. Feeling bored at work? Job search on Linkedin while in transit. Feeling achy and sore? Swing by the corner store for medicines.
We don't like to be limited.
We want an abundance we control - an abundance that serves us and gratifies our petty, momentary desires. We want an abundance that tastes like chocolate and comfort and success. We want an abundance that never hurts, never sweats, never needs anything but our desire for more of it. We want an abundance we can control.
Schaeffer is framing a concept in the second chapter that makes pretty much everyone uncomfortable. He doesn't even try to ease into it... he titled the chapter The Centrality of Death. He pulls us into a conversation about the real issue at stake as we try to live out the Christian life. He writes,
"It is not, for example, a matter of waiting until we no longer have strong sexual desires, but rather that in the midst of the moving of life, surrounded by a world that grabs everything in rebellion, first against God and then against fellow men, we are to understand what Jesus means when he talks about denying ourselves and renouncing ourselves with regard to that which is not rightfully ours." - Francis Scaeffer, True Spirituality
in the midst of the moving of life ... we are to understand what Jesus means when he talks about denying ourselves and renouncing ourselves
Yes, it is in the midst of the moving of life that we get especially uncomfortable with denying ourselves. Because that is when we reach for quick fixes. We have a very real empty filling, but we would prefer to orchestrate our own abundance.
This really got stuck in my soul this week. I would like to think otherwise, but this is my story as much as it is any average New Yorker's. I self medicate with coffees and chocolates and plans and hipster toys. "Death by choice," as Schaeffer calls it, does not sound appealing. But, his encouragement is that there is no way around it. If we want the kind of abundance Christ offered, it will come by way of death.
"The order - rejected, slain, raised - is also the order of the Christian life of true spirituality; there is no other." Schaeffer, True Spirituality
What power is there in being raised if we were never buried? What miracle is there in new birth if the old is still around? The Christian life is an everyday dying of self, an everyday denying of selfish desires. But the Christian life is also an everyday revival and an everyday raising.
My soul is looking like a seesaw over this truth.
I am learning what it means to die to self everyday so that I can live the miracle of being raised. That is when abundance starts to make sense - when you know what you have died to and what you have been raised for.