I lived for a winter season in a dirt-floored, sod-roofed cabin in the forest outside Jackson, Wyoming. One of the things that never ceased to amaze me was how long it took to do the basic chores that kept me alive: finding and purifying water; sawing, chopping and hauling wood; cooking on a wood burning stove; and keeping kerosene in my lamps, flour, salt and baking soda on my shelves, and perishables in my makeshift icebox. I had thought I would have hours and hours for reading and writing, but the necessary tasks for survival kept me occupied for the lion’s share of each day.
After getting back to “civilization” that spring, I was grateful – extremely grateful – for all the little things. When I turned on the tap and clean water flowed into my cups and pots, I felt incredibly lucky. When I turned up the heat in the evening or turned on the stove to make dinner, I rejoiced in my good fortune. But I began to be anxious in ways I hadn’t out in the woods. And though I had a lot more free time, I wasted it away in worry, stress and the mindless ways I had of dealing with these things.
By the standards of the world at large I am extremely fortunate. And it is only the accident of my birth that makes me so. But, strangely, this is not the reason either for living simply and in tune with heaven or for being generous toward those less fortunate than me. Strangely, my fortune makes me a beggar. I am always worried that it will disappear.
I am generous only when I realize that God is the source of all abundance. When I can let go of the notion that I am in control, then, no matter what my circumstances, I have plenty to share. I don’t have to depend on my finite savings account to replenish the resources I have spent. Instead I depend on the infinite bounty of the Creator.
It is a total shift of focus because it puts me in the same boat with all of humanity. No longer am I trying through my own efforts to avoid poverty, illness, and insecurity. Instead, I acknowledge that all those issues are God’s business. I accept the abundant love and support of God. Through everything – illness, suffering of all sorts, estrangement, even death – God is the root of my well being. No matter what happens to me, I’ll be okay.
Beloved Creator, I am lucky in having enough food, decent shelter, and a life style that allows me ample free time. Thank you for everything you have given me. Help me recognize that it is pure gift, not earned. May I spend my time and my resources in love of and service to you. For this alone is the abundance that is eternal. Amen.
Laurie Gudim is a religious iconographer and writer living in Fort Collins, Colorado. To see some of her work, go to everydaymysteries.com.