There is this strange Christian conception about “living out of the overflow”- It’s tossed around in Christian circles and to the best of my knowledge, it refers to the idea that we are to let God fill us with His abundant love, and then because we are so full of God’s love, we are to lavish our love onto others. Despite its churchy overtones, its a nice concept. I was thinking about this saying recently- and questioning what it actually looks like to live this way. What does it look like when someone has love pouring out of them? I certainly don’t know, because I am pretty convinced that I don’t live this way.
So, as a means to understanding this idea better- I decided to try to figure out what the opposite of “living out of the overflow” would look like.
Water is often used in the bible as a metaphor- and the word “overflow” itself seems to denote a liquid of some type- so, let’s stick with water.
The opposite of overflowing- is dry, barren, brittle…and thirsty.
I would like to suggest that in our culture we live in a constant state of thirst or dryness. I don’t know about you, but there are a number of possessions, accomplishments and people in my life that I need in order to feel valuable. For example, it makes me feel valuable knowing that I have a partner that loves me, a post secondary education and a place to live. More subtly, it makes me feel great when someone says that they think I am intelligent or that they like a particular piece of clothing I own. I’m not sure if this is hardwired into us, but the way that we have come to categorize something is through comparison. Again, for example- there is a sick and shameful place in me that secretly feels good when I have something (or someone or a certain accomplishment) that someone else (even if it’s a friend of mine, and perhaps even more shamefully, especially when it’s a friend) doesn’t have that certain something.
We use comparisons as a way of defining ourselves. It’s a bit like living in the desert- where there is no water anywhere and EVERYONE is thirsty. You can imagine that such a place would become rather cut-throat as everyone is trying to quench their own thirst.
I believe that the world we live in is like a desert. We’ve got +6 billion people looking for ways to quench their thirst and meet their needs. In order to feel valuable, special and worthy, we must find sources of water. In North America, this “water” that I speak of is degrees, cottages, number of friends, weddings, being first, promotions, travels, blackberrys, nice cars, big houses, etc.
You get the picture.
Retail therapy is a particular term made up to describe this phenomenon when it refers to purchasing goods and services to make us feel better about ourselves. My good friend Deb just wrote a great post about how “online communities” (or rather anti-communities) are adding to this problem with people wasting hours and hours of time browsing their acquaintance’s photos and lives. We spend ridiculous amounts of time updating our “statuses” to tell people exactly what we’re doing in a given moment. We have become so focused on creating desirable “online images”-completely self-involved and narcissistic to think that all 432 of your “friends” care that you’re done exams/on holidays/tired/sick/excited for this or that. I am completely guilty here. While I want to tell you that I have NO IDEA why I have participated in such bullshit- it that would be a lie. I have wasted time in ‘fake online land’ because of course I wanted people to think that I have a desirable and exciting life.
Might I say this is why you participate too?
The fake online world of facebook is a lot like porn– not only is it addicting, but it disguises itself as “reality”- when in fact, like the contrived pleasure of porn stars, this world is anything but real. It’s a carefully edited, constructed facade of the truth. It’s a place where we have control as to what we look like, who can write on our ‘wall’ and who our ‘friends’ are. The more and more I think about it, the more sick it makes me. Last year for lent, Matt and I decided to take a facebook fast- 40 days, no facebook. I have to admit, that I glanced at it a few times, but in the end it was a refreshing break. I think it might be high time for another hiatus.
We fool ourselves into thinking that we NEED things, can’t live without such things.
“How will I know about my friend’s events if I can’t check my “events” page?”
” How will people get in touch with me?!”
But in the end, it comes down to fear and stupidity. “How will I live without it?”- is answered by, “you just will.”
Phew, soapbox facebook tangent over.
So, we’re a thirsty people who need stupid shit like blackberrys, facebook friends and cool clothes to make us feel good about ourselves. We’re dry and we try to get a hold of any sort of liquid to quench our thirst. This is the absolute opposite of overflow. This is desert, wanting, and resources wars. This is the anti-overflow.
If this is what the overflow isn’t, then what is it?
Living out of the overflow is first and foremost knowing who you are.
You are I are exactly enough- as we are, today, yesterday forever.
You and I are perfectly made by a creator who makes no mistakes.
You and I could not be loved any more.
Nothing that I have or do- will ever, ever change this. My value, my worth– is inalienable. Unchanging. Forever.
This truth is only accessible, not because I am worthy, but rather because Jesus came to earth to show us a new way to live. A way to love our enemies, to eat and drink together, and to love the sick and the lonely. A way to be free.
When I remember this simple truth, it doesn’t matter to me what my job is, how much money I have or whether or not my friends think I dress cool. When I remember who I am, I am not thirsty, I am quenched…and my frantic scavenge for things in this world to make me feel good about myself lose their gleam and the facade falls away and I can see that it’s all meaningless bullshit.
In truth, these moments of clarity are few and far between, and unfortunately I spend way more time comparing myself to other people who in secret probably feel inferior too. But, in those moments when I realize that I am valuable as is- I don’t need to compare myself any longer–and I don’t need so much junk to to fool myself into feeling great because I have brighter skin/lost weigh/have silky hair/the newest fashion must have/and on and on.
If we are were able to consistently remember who we are-I think we’d give consumerism a good run for it’s money. We would no longer be fooled into thinking that any sort of product or title would fill that hole in our hearts and we wouldn’t need to buy more crap. We’d have more time to dream about ways to make the world a better place- how to help people, to create, to have tea, to paint, to imagine and talk together- face to face.
We would live in the overflow- where all people would know that they are loved, that their names are carved on their creator’s palms- and from that truth, joy would pour out onto the streets and into the fields. The rat race would be over – and we’d all be winners.
It is my deepest hope to live in such a world.