I Shall Not Want – Of Eunice and Celine.
(To lack nothing. To have everything one needs.)
I have a million-dollar wardrobe. It is a ridiculous collection of almost everything that I’ve laid my eyes on earth that’s taken my breath away. It’s not tons and tons. But it’s quite a bit (eyes averted…). It’s almost embarrassing. Almost.
I have clothes, and shoes, and jewelry that make my heart dance for joy. In my defense, I grew up with 5 women in the house and had thousands of very fashion-conscious relatives and neighbors. We loved dressing up. We all loved it with all our hearts. I blogged about that in this post a couple of years ago https://tribalminded.com/2017/04/11/the-unravelling/.
“Do you know what you’re looking for?” a friendly store attendant might ask me while I’m browsing the shelves at a store. “Nope, but I’ll know it when I see it,” I respond briskly. Here I am, shopping, with earnest and intention – for nothing! I just need to buy something. Anything. What is that gaping hole within me, yawning for stuff?
It reminds me of this fabulous clip:
Because I have everything I want (other that the living arrangement pictured below; oh, and zero debt) it is easy for me to say with the psalmist, ‘I shall not want.’ It’s clothing and accessories for me. I won’t even get into my gardening habit. These are some the things that make me happy, that fulfill me. It might be tools for you, or gadgets, crafts and art supplies, properties, or… Is it relationships? Experiences? Education and knowledge? The pursuit of great health? If only… – fill in your own gaps. You know what it is that you could always use just one, or another one, or a little or much more of. I posit that all these amazing, scintillating, wonderful, pursuit-worthy elements, in and of themselves, will be disappointing, at best, for they cannot fill the hole in our hearts.
Our town is home to an interesting homeless man with an amazing story. Tom pushes a shopping cart. Sometimes 2 or 4 shopping carts. They are full to overflowing of miscellaneous items: branches, carvings, used left-over food boxes, suitcases, sleeping bags, books, potting containers,etc. He hobbles along all over town and pushes first one a few feet, then another. Mid-afternoon he takes a nap and has a fancy coffee. A day-long caravan of, in my mind, not really going anywhere, and that with a lot of cargo! I could shake my head and sigh at the ravages of mental illness. But ultimately, that is me. I just have a bigger shopping cart and it doesn’t have wheels.
One one end of the wealth spectrum is Tom. There is also Eunice. When I was about 6 six years old, she came to our farm from time to time to work. she had a kind, shy smile. Mum saved tasks for her to do. She had 2 children and had recently had a 3rd. I enjoyed visiting with and helping her while she worked. We did laundry by hand and she handed me small items to wash. She left me a little room in the sudsy basin. Looking back, I must confess I really was no help. The hot mid-morning sun felt good against our backs and I can still smell the Sunlight Soap she used to bathe. She worked fastidiously, humming under her breath, and if I knew the song I hummed along.
“Not too much soap,” she chided me gently, “The water doesn’t have to be running the whole time.” I nodded my consent and looked up to her face for approval but, as she was bent over and her blouse sagging low, my attention was grabbed and drawn in by the sight of her very emaciated breasts. I gawked at the pronounced blood vessels criss-crossing them. They were empty sacks, dangling straight down off her chest. They looked like Popsicle wrappers vacuum-sucked dry by a thirsty child mid-summer, with a scant rivulet or two left to extract.
My heart broke as my little brain thought, ‘But she has a baby… What will the baby drink?’
For a moment, forget about me saying, ‘I shall not want’. Life on this earth was hard on Eunice. She ate one meal a day so her children could eat. They lived in a tiny one-room shack made from wood she’d scrounged around. The walls had many holes. The large ones were sealed with cardboard.
Could Eunice say “I shall not want?’
On the other end of the spectrum is Celine Dion, one of my favorite singers. At the 6-9 minute mark of the funny clip below, she confesses she has a lot of shoes (eyes averted). James Corden chose to give away several of them to strangers on the street. Most took them and some said no – the epitome of ‘I don’t need anything.’ Watch her reactions.
We know very well that there are rich people who are constantly in want, and others who ‘do not want.’ There are poor people who constantly want, and poor people who want not. I aim to strip my heart of unhealthy attachments to things, people, and experiences. The secret, my friends is contentment. May we strive to be “content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” (1)
Be content and marvel at where you are and what you have. “Godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.” (2)
Here are 2 practical ways we can foster contentment and glorify the Shepherd. First, be thankful. This is our modern day sacrifice: “Sacrifice thank offerings to God, fulfill your vows to the Most High, and call on me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you will honor me.” (3) And again, “Those who sacrifice thank offerings honor me.” (4) “Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe.” (5)
Share with others. “Do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.” (6) “Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the LORD, and he will reward them for what they have done.” (7) “Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will never fail, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (8)
No matter where we fall on the wealth spectrum, “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.” (9)
It was King David who wrote the lyrics “The Lord is my ra’ah, my Shephard, I shall not want.” I love the man’s heart. Towards the end of his reign, he took up and contributed to an offering to build a magnificent temple for God. He summarized the privilege with this beautiful prayer: “But who am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to give as generously as this? Everything comes from you, and we have given you only what comes from your hand. We are foreigners and strangers in your sight, as were all our ancestors. Our days on earth are like a shadow, without hope. Lord our God, all this abundance that we have provided for building you a temple for your Holy Name comes from your hand, and all of it belongs to you. I know, my God, that you test the heart and are pleased with integrity. All these things I have given willingly and with honest intent. And now I have seen with joy how willingly your people who are here have given to you. Lord, the God of our fathers Abraham, Isaac and Israel, keep these desires and thoughts in the hearts of your people forever, and keep their hearts loyal to you.” (10)
Prayer: Lord, if everything comes from you, and I have you, I have everything! Please give me heart of contentment. Amen.
Image retrieved on 5/21/19 from:
https://www.google.com/search?hl=en&authuser=0&biw=1366&bih=625&tbm=isch&sa= 1&ei=2nDlXPe3MYed5gLzo4KQBA&q=cabin+on+a+lake&oq=cabin+on+a+lake&gs_l=img.3..0l4j0i5i30j0i24l5.50176.50517..53381…0.0..0.149.557.0j4……1….1..gws-wiz-img.T7EgbE Bb6 UA #imgrc=g4XWWJVbh9xGWM:\
The Jerk video retrieved on 5/21/19 from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w2X3vVMdh-s
Celine Dion video retrieved on 5/21/19 from https://youtu.be/dsUURLFnr9k
- Philipians 4:11b-13
- 1 Timothy 6:6-10
- Psalm 50:14, 15
- Psalm 50:23a
- Hebrews 12:28
- Hebrews 13:16
- Proverbs 19:17
- Luke 12:33-34
- 2 Peter 1:3-4
- 1 Chronicles 29:14-18