By Beth Anderson
What comes to mind for you when you think of abundance? Thick, golden wheat fields waving in the breeze? Heavy-laden sunflowers bowing their golden heads? A checkbook balancing down to the penny with some extra leftover?
Dictionary.com defines abundance as 1. an extremely plentiful or oversufficient quantity or supply: an abundance of grain; 2. overflowing fullness: abundance of the heart.
The images of abundance that we often imagine involve containers overflowing. It brings to mind times of not only “having enough,” but of having more than enough. Flipping through TV channels or scrolling down our Facebook feed could easily lead us to conclude that possessing an abundance of things or collecting an abundance of experiences brings a sense of fullness to life. The pending implications of this summer’s drought could leave one wondering whether abundance can even be found in a time when worries are deep and the bottom line is awfully thin.
But experiencing an abundant life has very little to do with acquiring more of anything or lacking anything. So
metimes, too much of something is simply too much. Too many demands on our time leave us feeling exhausted. Too much stuff leaves us feeling overwhelmed. Too much food leaves us scrambling for our gym pass so we can shave off accumulated pounds. On the other side, wanting for abundance often leads to scarcity thinking—causing us to hang on desperately to anything we have, closing us off from expanding our relationships, shoring up any bit of excess for a rainy day, fearful that sharing might not leave any for ourselves and those we care about.
Over time, I’ve come to understand that abundance isn’t an accounting system, but rather a sacred lens through which to view “this one wild
and precious life.”(1) Abundance can be experienced in both the leanest of times and in times of plenty. I’d like to add an additional definition to the Dictionary definition:
Abundance: 3. a way of seeing, in which one recognizes the gift present in each moment.
Experiencing abundance has to do with how we see and appreciate the richness in the moments we are given. When life is lived through a lens of abundance, we become less preoccupied by what we don’t have and focus more intentionally on noticing what is already present in the small and precious moments we do have. A cup of coffee becomes not just fuel to get us through the day, but a deep, dark cup of comfort—sustenance for the soul. The blossoming flower becomes not just aesthetics, but a reminder of new life and promise. Spending time with an aging parent becomes not just duty, but an opportunity for connection. Even situations of tragedy, such as a rural community pulling together to put out a grass fire, can become a sacred shared experience.
In an article on brain science, Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Natalie Angier writes, “Scientists have discovered that the small brave act of cooperating with another person, of choosing trust over cynicism, generosity over selfishness, makes the brain light up with quiet joy.” (2)
Abundance is found in generosity, gratitude, and the ability to see the beauty or gift in the simplest of moments. May you experience a moment of abundance this day.
1 from The Summer Day, poem by Mary Oliver
2 Why We’re So Nice: We’re Wired to Cooperate, Natalie Angier. New York Times, July 23, 2002
Beth Anderson is a deacon in the ELCA (Evangelical Lutheran Church in America). The joys in her life include her husband Dallas and their two beautiful girls. Beth loves cooking and getting lost in a good novel. If you looked in her fridge you would find an abundance of fresh fruit—blueberries, raspberries, and melons.