Why We Should Stop Working So Hard To Take Care of Ourselves
That’s how our house imploded.
I, thinking my three children could share, poured some shredded cheese into one bowl, then set it on the table in front of them.
For a short while, they happily took turns driving their fist into the pile, and then shoving a handful of the stuff into their mouths.
But then the pile grew smaller and smaller. The handfuls less and less.
My middle child grabbed the bowl and clutched it against her chest, claiming it as her own.
“Hey! Give that back!” my oldest shouted, afraid that she wouldn’t get enough.
“This is mine!” Middle replied, stuffing another bite into her mouth for good measure.
My two-year-old simply sat in his chair and started roaring.
The noise and demands escalated quickly.
Maybe they’ll figure this out on their own, I thought. Maybe they’ll remember to take care of each other. Maybe they’ll simply ask me for help.
But no one thought to ask for help. No one even thought to ask for more. Heck, in their primal, animalistic state, they didn’t seem to be thinking much at all. In fact, though I was sitting directly in front of them, I’m pretty sure they forgot I was there all together.
And yet, there I was, watching in horror as my children tore each other apart for a sliver of Parmesan.
I cradled the plastic bag in my hands, feeling its heaviness, its fullness, then pressed my fingers against the bulge of cheese that rested inside. I had everything they wanted, and then some.
Finally, I interjected in a voice that topped my son’s, who was now completely red in the face. The chaos quieted.
“Do you not trust that I will give you everything you need?” I asked.
Middle eyed me suspiciously, still clinging to the bowl. “Yes, I trust you.”
“Then why are you working so hard to take care of yourself?” I asked. “Your brother and sister are hungry. If you trust that I will take care of you, why not give them some cheese?”
“Well I’m hungry, too!” Her face scrunched in repugnance, angry that others’ needs were being placed above her own.
“I know you are.” I lifted the plastic bag and it crinkled in my hand. “Do you see how much I have that I can give to you? How about just asking for more?”
Her body relaxed as she smiled for the first time since the fight broke out. She handed me her bowl. “Mom, can I have some more cheese, please?”
I opened the bulging bag and poured some into her bowl. “Now, when I give this to you, you can give some to your brother and sister, and we can work together to take care of each other. Right?”
“Right.” She reached for the replenished bowl and then scooted it toward her siblings. “Would you guys like some?”
Happily, they all dug in until only small crumbs were left at the bottom of the bowl, and eventually they left the table satisfied and smiling.
And yet, more often than not, we act like the quarreling kids who cling too tightly to their valuables. More often than not, we’re too worried about ourselves to recognize someone else. And, always, when we fail to recognize someone else, we also fail to be the hands who fulfills their needs.
Now, more than ever, it seems as though it’s every man for himself.
How on earth did we get here?
That’s how the world imploded.
God, thinking His children could share, gave us lots of good gifts and set them in this one world we have right in front of us.
For a while, we happily took turns buying and trading, and then shoving the things into our lives one handful at a time.
But then the piles grew smaller and smaller. The handfuls less and less.
And y’all, panic has most definitely struck.
We have wiped entire shelves clean so we can have more than enough during these uncertain days. We’ve shouted at one another over grocery items and mask usage. We’ve suspiciously eyed others for an invisible contagion, instead of seeing what was truly before them—another human being.
The noise and demands have escalated quickly.
Maybe they’ll figure this out on their own, God probably thought. Maybe they’ll remember to take care of each other. Maybe they’ll simply ask Me for help.
But not many have thought to ask Him for help. Heck, in our primal, animalistic state, we don’t seem to be thinking much at all. In fact, though He’s been sitting directly in front of us, I’m pretty sure we forgot He was even there.
And yet, there He is, surely watching in horror, as His children tear each other apart for a sliver of Charmin at the grocery store.
All along, He’s been trying to interject, but He has the patience to wait until the chaos quiets.
Then and only then—in the still, small silence—will He speak. But to hear Him, we must stop talking and actually listen.
“Do you not trust that I will give you everything you need?” He asks.
“Yes.” The word drags itself cautiously over my lips as I eye Him suspiciously. “I trust you.”
“Then why are you working so hard to take care of yourself?” He challenges in return. “Your brothers and sisters are in need. If you trust that I will take care of you, why not give them some of what you already have?”
“Well I need things, too!” My face scrunches in anger as others’ needs get placed before my own. Suffocation clutches my chest in a way that only comes from fear. The fear of not having enough. Enough time. Enough money. Enough food and sleep and air. Enough sanity. Definitely not enough sanity.
“I know you do.” The Creator of the universe responds. “But do you know how much I have that I can give to you? How about just asking Me for what you need?”
My body relaxes as I chuck up a desperate plea for grace and provision.
Then, as He has been known to do, he showers me with three meals a day, a means to pay our bills, and a miraculous amount of energy.
“Now,” He adds, “when I give this to you, give some to your brothers and sisters so we can work together to take care of each other.”