Author: Brittany Fiscus-van Rossum
Reflection: v. 10, ‘as having nothing, and yet possessing everything’
In Paul’s letters to the early Christian churches, he is often writing to remind these budding communities of the life they have signed on for with Christ. For Paul, this new life in Christ is no small thing, and has involved many changes and sacrifices. To follow Christ, there is much to give up and a lot you must walk away from. Paul describes in this letter feeling unknown and misunderstood—speaking the truth and yet being treated as an imposter of ill-repute. Paul also notes being treated as having nothing, despite possessing everything. Ever since I was a child, I have loved the traditional practice of ‘giving something up’ for Lent as a form of fasting. While I believe that God wants us to have good things and to enjoy life and abundance fully, there is also wisdom sometimes in giving things up. Sometimes it is okay to set something aside for a while, to take a little less, or to stop and take stock of what feels most important. While I certainly would not have articulated it this way as a child, I think giving something up was a small and subversive way that I combatted our consumerist culture that tells us that more is always better. ‘I want it all, and I want now.’ Don’t tell me our society is not set up for the constant and instant gratification (of some). But does that always serve us? Do those of us with more, more, more ever really feel like we have enough? Or do we yearn for what Paul describes—seemingly having nothing, but possessing everything. Perhaps there is some wisdom in some of our old traditions if they can help us to actively resist the urges for things that do not satisfy. Perhaps this Lent, you might take some time in this slow season to take a reckoning of all that we consume—maybe there are things to give up, maybe there are things to consume less of, maybe there are things to share. And maybe in the slowing down, that brief pause we take to pull back our grasping hands for just a moment, we’ll find what Paul has found instead: everything.
Prayer Instead of grasping for more things we don’t need, help us to seek you, O Lord.