“What is enough for you?” was a question posed to my husband and me by our financial adviser.
Many factors competed for consideration: the desire to not be a burden on our kids, people living longer, enormous costs of health care, diminishing social safety nets, ability to travel and a certain standard of living.
The list goes on and, with our graduate statistics background, we can engage in some rigorous discussion of probabilities and risk minimization. Without getting too heavy into the exercise, it just seems that “more” is better.
“What is enough?” is the question that permeates all arenas of decision-making and raises its head implicitly or explicitly as we on a personal level determine how much to give to charity, or on a societal level address whether immigrants are draining our resources, whether we can afford food assistance for low income populations, how fast we are willing to raise the minimum wage to $15, how much safety Boeing is willing trade away to grow profits beyond the 2018 level of $10.5 billion, or what we are willing to pay for a low carbon environment.
For David and me, getting to “enough” poses a tug between the Gospel call to other-centeredness and radical generosity, and the pragmatic drive for control and the reserve that insures against life’s vicissitudes.
We are conditioned by the virtue of being responsible and unnerved by the uncertainties of the future and disregard for the common good in our policies and society.
At the same time, we recognize that sin often emanates from a good thing, an appropriate desire that loses balance and assumes disproportionate dominance.
We know we should relinquish such idols, mind the teachings that worry has not added a day to any one’s life, that building bigger barns is a foolish enterprise, and that we are so much more than the lilies and birds crowned with God’s glory.
We all know the “Yes, but …” We all have scary tales that make us shudder and lead us to prioritize security above all else. Within those parameters, we ration how much we can give back to God. This accommodation yields implicitly to the power of fear and the harshness of an impersonal economy over the power of God.
Our actions indicate that we put our trust in our own planning, effort, self-sufficiency rather than in God. We proclaim our faith in songs and prayers, but where it counts, we cannot let go of the tethers that give us the illusions of safety and certitude.
We should not be surprised with our half-hearted faith, as it is impossible for us to really comprehend the capaciousness of God’s love. Our failure to live up to the Gospel message may cause us to wonder how much we merit God’s generosity or how we score in God’s counting.
We follow many others, saints included, with the same struggles to fully surrender to the mystery of God starting with the father who begged Jesus for a cure for his son, “I do believe, help my unbelief!” (Mk 9:24).
We may be timid and unsure but we do know that our limitation is no match for God’s grace, mercy and presence; that God wills us to recognize divine goodness at work in us and others. In the end, it is not just what we can do, but what God can do to help us claim our birthright as his children.
For this Lent, perhaps you can join me to turn over to God our “Yes, but …”