Signposts on the Way to God
How do we know about God’s love, God’s generosity, God’s kindness, God’s forgiveness? Through our parents, our friends, our teachers, our pastors, our spouses, our children— they all reveal God to us. But as we come to know them, we realize that each of them can reveal only a little bit of God. God’s love is greater than theirs; God’s goodness is greater than theirs; God’s beauty is greater than theirs.
At first we may be disappointed in these people. For a while we thought that they would be able to give us all the love, goodness, and beauty we needed. But gradually we discover that they were all signposts on the way to God.
God is a god of abundance, not a god of scarcity. Jesus reveals to us God’s abundance when he offers so much bread to the people that there are twelve large baskets with leftover scraps (see John 6:5-15), and when he makes his disciples catch so many fish that their boat nearly sinks (see Luke 5:1-7). God doesn’t give us just enough. God gives us more than enough: more bread and fish than we can eat, more love than we dared to ask for.
God is a generous giver, but we can only see and enjoy God’s generosity when we love God with all of our hearts, minds, and strength. As long as we say, “I will love you,
God, but first show me your generosity,” we will remain distant from God and unable to experience what God truly wants to give us, which is life and life in abundance.
The Temptation to Hoard
As fearful people we are inclined to develop a mind-set that makes us say, “There’s not enough food for everyone, so I better be sure I save enough for myself in case of emergency,” or “There’s not enough knowledge for everyone to enjoy; so I’d better keep my knowledge to myself, so no one else will use it,” or “There’s not enough love to give to everybody, so I’d better keep my friends for myself to prevent others from taking them away from me.” This is a scarcity mentality. It involves hoarding whatever we have, fearful that we won’t have enough to survive.
The tragedy, however, is that what you cling to ends up rotting in your hands.
Seeing the Miracle of Multiplication
The opposite of a scarcity mentality is an abundance mentality. With an abundance mentality we say “There is enough for everyone, more than enough: food, knowledge, love . . . everything.” With this mind-set we give away whatever we have, to whomever we meet. When we see hungry people we give them food. When we meet ignorant people we share our knowledge; when we encounter people in need of love, we offer them friendship and affection and hospitality and introduce them to our family and friends.
When we live with this mind-set, we will see the miracle that what we give away multiplies: food, knowledge, love . . . everything. There will even be many leftovers.
~From Henri J.M. Nouwen, Bread for the Journey: A Daybook of Wisdom and Faith