What was your response to the title of this post? Did you find yourself cringing a little? Did you question whether the quest for abundance could ever really be spiritual? Or did you maybe have a list of objections and redefinitions of abundance that rose up within you?
So many of us feel conflicted around receiving anything, let alone anything we could describe as abundance. Many of us have been raised in a society where self-sufficiency is applauded and where the capacity to give is valued far more highly than the capacity to receive. Most of this has to do with how we work with power in our world. Those who have enough left over to be able to give have more power than those who lack and need to receive. Those who can help themselves have more power than those who need help from others. It’s a warped and broken set of values, I know. But it is a strong influence in our lives.
AWKWARD SPIRITUAL GAMES
If you have been part of a church you probably have additional baggage around abundance and receiving. In his excellent book Money Is Spiritual, David Hayward—the Naked Pastor—speaks about the games that we play in religious circles around our needs.
Here’s the thing: I had to translate my disdain for my desire for money and even the need of money into a spirituality I could comfortably live with. I transmuted it into humility and dependence on the Lord. Because I was surrounded by caring people who also desired to be spiritual, they would come through for me. I now believe I was emitting my neediness subliminally, and the caring people around me detected my neediness and felt obliged, being spiritual themselves, to be generous and provide for my needs. To be fair, I wasn’t just a receiver, but a provider as well. I rescued people too. We all played.
Of course, abundance isn’t just about money. But any time we find ourselves in a situation where we need to receive something, we tend to get awkward and uncomfortable around it. Giving is spiritual. Receiving is not just unspiritual, it is often subtly communicated that it is a failure—of faith in God, of our faithfulness to God, of our work ethic, and a whole bunch of other things.
There has to be a better way!
THE WISDOM IN RECEIVING
There is a wonderful freedom and wisdom when we get past our conflicts around receiving and abundance. When we learn to receive intentionally, openly, gratefully, and meaningfully we invite abundance into our lives in all sorts of ways. Here are some of the amazing gifts that we can enjoy when we learn to receive:
- We honour those who have more than enough and who are generous to give freely;
- We strengthen our relationships with those who are generous toward us;
- We make it possible to share abundance by giving to others. You can’t give what you don’t have, after all;
- We develop a greater capacity to enjoy whatever goodness we have in our lives;
- We increase our capacity to do good in the world because we have the resources we need and we are free from the burden of constantly trying to support ourselves.
THE QUEST FOR ABUNDANCE
I find it tragic that so many spiritual paths seem so negative toward abundance. Don’t get me wrong—I believe in living simply, but that doesn’t mean we have to be ascetic and deny ourselves our legitimate needs. For years, I made the mistake of thinking that simplicity required me to make my needs and my life as small as possible. As a working musician (among my other jobs), I need instruments in order to do my work. But for most of my life, I felt that there was something wrong with having ‘too many’ instruments or having equipment that was ‘too expensive’. But I could never manage to get the quality of sound in my music that I wanted and needed.
Fortunately, I began to realise that my quest for simplicity was actually an inappropriate denial of legitimate needs. I also began to realise that when Jesus spoke about us having abundant life, he meant it. So I began to work on shifting my comfort levels with receiving and having what I actually need to live a life of fullness and meaning. More recently I have begun to recognise that the quest for abundance is an important feature of any authentic spiritual practice. And I’m so glad I did!
MAKING THE QUEST FOR ABUNDANCE PART OF YOUR SPIRITUALITY
Once we have accepted that abundance is a spiritual quality that goes far beyond money we can begin to work on adding the quest for abundance to our spirituality. And that means we can make learning to receive openly, graciously, and intentionally a part of our spiritual practice. It also means that we can learn how to experience and enjoy abundance more freely and deliberately.
So how do we include the quest for abundance in our spiritual practice? Here are a few ideas to get you started:
- Engage regularly in self-reflection and seek to identify what your legitimate needs are (as opposed to non-essential desires).
- Listen to your longings, jealousy, and the place where you bump up against the limits of your resources. Ask yourself how your lack in these areas prevents you from living more fully and generously?
- Practice receiving intentionally, gratefully and meaningfully. Each day, find something that you can receive actively. It could be the music of bird song, or the warmth of sunlight, or the taste of a favourite meal. It could be an unexpected gift from a friend or a much-needed windfall. Be thankful and seek to enjoy this gift as deeply and actively as you can.
- Practice extravagant enjoyment of your favourite things. When we take note of and enjoy what we already have, life feels more abundant and it opens us to receive more without guilt.
How do you feel about including the quest for abundance in your spiritual practice? What questions or conflicts do you experience around this thought? How have you learned to receive abundance more freely? What can you share that will help others to embrace the quest for abundance more wholeheartedly?
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