Gospel Scarcity and Abundance

This is a guest post by Fashion Chavez-Rabe. Fashion has been slowly migrating north for 13 of the past 14 years. After a year in France, she spent 3.5 years in San Salvador, 6.5 in Mexico City, 3 in Seal Beach, and just recently moved to Toronto with her four children and husband, who isn’t in the military but just changes jobs a lot. She teaches high school English now and again. An earlier version of these thoughts was first posted on Fashion’s personal blog.

“. . . thou knowest the greatness of God;
and he shall consecrate thine afflictions for thy gain.”

2 Nephi 2:2

Seek and ye shall find has several applications. What we “find” in the Gospel of Jesus Christ is often just a reflection of our outlook on life. In other words, we project onto the gospel how we view the world and ourselves.

When I came back to the church at 16, I viewed the world as a place where there were limited resources. Life as I knew it as a young girl had been slowly ripped away from me. My parents divorced. My mom had a psychotic break. We moved from the only place I’d ever known. I was no longer a little girl; I’d experienced too much. In my eyes, the world was a place of scarcity where people and places you love are not permanent.

While I did have a glimmer of hope in coming back to church, fear mostly guided my outlook. I worked to gain my worth back in Heavenly Father’s eyes because I had no idea that my worth was infinite and confirmed through the Savior’s atonement. So, I mistakenly measured my worth in fervent prayer and scripture study, and in conforming the best I could to what seemed to constitute the life of a Mormon woman.

However, my pursuits were futile because I was never going to be like the girls who were raised in homes with attentive moms who make crafts for every season, teach church classes with object lessons and printouts, and who bring casseroles to neighbors in need. Instead, my sister and I were pretty much on our own. Mom was gone and severely mentally ill. Dad was busy figuring out life after divorce and working to support us. I was left feeling fundamentally flawed, because I didn’t fit the Mormon mold.

Going to Brigham Young University only magnified my seeming deficit. I imagined that everyone there had come from intact, proclamation families who loved them unconditionally and nurtured their talents and academic abilities. I put the church and its people on a pedestal.

For many years I deeply resented the hand I’d been dealt. I remember thinking, I could have been more accomplished if only I’d been supported academically, and pushed to develop my talents. If only I hadn’t had those emotional and situational setbacks. If only I’d had parents like the Hansen’s or the Christiansen’s.

Over time, I realized that what I saw as “set backs” or a lack of resources were perfectly crafted opportunities that helped me foster a deep, foundational relationship with God and develop character defining attributes including an ability to withhold judgement and have empathy for those who feel marginalized. Could I have developed the deep foundational relationship I have with God, a relationship that at times has been the sole thread holding together my testimony, had I not so desperately needed and relied on him as I tried to figure out if my faith was enough to qualify me for the kingdom?

Our desire to demonstrate faith and do what’s right by God sometimes gets conflated with our very human need to be accepted by the group. This tendency manifests itself in church culture when our attention becomes disproportionately focused on proscriptive limits that can be outwardly observed rather than soul enhancing pursuits which happen in private. We miss the mark when our focus is on things like hemlines rather than a humble heart or when we focus on not drinking and smoking rather than meditating about the connection between body and spirit. Burdens lighten when we make choices from a place of sincerity (seeking approval from God) rather than from a place of scarcity (seeking approval from peers).

What I understand now is that the expectation to fit any sort of “Mormon mold” is self-imposed. I can decide if I want to play the game of trying to live up to some invented social expectation or not. Yes, there might be throngs of women around me with white, subway-tile backsplashes, growing at-home businesses, and taking family pics each week. And I can be happy for their pursuits. But the only thing that I am required to offer is my faith and obedience to God. I was never meant to be like any particular Mormon woman. Each has their role to fulfil and I have mine. We all make up the Body of Christ.

During college and since, I’ve known Mormons who come from diverse backgrounds with different types of families. Many of us seemed to be imagining the same thing about the other: that everyone else had it figured out and life had been easy for them. But none of it was true. Nobody’s had a perfect life. What we each have experienced is our hope in the Savior’s atonement to heal what is beyond our own ability to repair.

Now I’m trying to view the gospel of Jesus Christ as a gospel of abundance. I try not to pray and read the scriptures to earn my worth, but instead to tap into the bounteous love of God. I don’t attempt to access the power of Jesus Christ to help me be more like the ‘perfect Mormon’, but to soften my heart and help me love more fully. I try not to let fear and scarcity guide my thoughts, but rather pray for the scales to fall from my eyes and to know my true purpose. By seeking abundance in the gospel of Jesus Christ, I’m finding my unique role in the kingdom and better understanding my true worth.

* * *

How has your view of gospel doctrine changed as you’ve grown? What “wicked traditions” or false premises have you had to shed? What do you seek from the gospel of Jesus Christ? And are you finding it?

Comments

  1. Thomas Parkin says:

    Beautiful. Just so. Thank you!!!

  2. This is lovely.

    For me, a “wicked tradition” I have had to let go of is the idea that I can find the answer to every question in the doctrines of the Church. As I have aged, I have accumulated questions at a much faster rate than I have found answers. I am still very much a believer in personal revelation and the scriptures, but I have come to realize that many of my deepest questions just aren’t going to be answered for me in this life. And that’s OK. Questions lead me to Jesus.

  3. Carolyn says:

    Thank you!! It always amazes me — including in my myself — how quickly “You are broken and a sinner, and God loves you unconditionally anyway — lets work together to move forward in hope and love.” turns into “But unless you fix yourself and present to the world as at most only slightly cracked, your community will shun you and God will condemn you to hell.”

    God is the God of broken things, and I wish everyone, myself included, would be a little more honest and vulnerable about that.

  4. I’ve been thinking a lot about this post. My wife and I saw the Mr. Rogers movie last night — very inspiring, of course. Fred Rogers’s drive was to treat each individual with God-endowed human dignity and express to them they were “worthy” of being loved just the way they are. What holds each of us back from doing the same?

    The scarcity mentality you’ve highlighted contributes to our reluctance to do so. Both hard physical realities and our socially constructed perceptions of zero-sum interactions lead us to withhold love and respect for others’ inherent human dignity. Unfortunately, these same elements also have convinced many of their own supposed lack of such inherent human dignity and worthiness to be loved. That, in turn, leads people to engage in risky, dangerous, illegal, and immoral behaviors.

    An abundance mindset can remedy this to some extent — and I think that’s the way Fred Rogers led his life. His starting point was accepting each person’s inherent worth as a child of God. The wonderful outcome of this was that, as he was telling people he loved them just the way they are, they weren’t taking that lesson and using is as an excuse to be sinful or entitled — as culture warriors in the 1990s and early 2000s mockingly claimed as they falsely accused Fred Rogers’s love-based Christian worldview for creating a generation of “entitled” Americans — but rather, that message changed them and motivated them to become better, to show the same love to others, and to make a difference.

    That’s exactly the feeling my wife and I came away from the movie with — that we each wanted to be a better person, someone who could show love the way Fred Rogers did. We wanted to change, to improve ourselves. By contrast, it is the scarcity mentality that engenders entitlement. That scarcity mentality is one of the many “wicked traditions” we need to overcome.

  5. “What I understand now is that the expectation to fit any sort of “Mormon mold” is self-imposed.”

    Yes. It is so much better to view what others are doing as abundant possibilities that we may or may not want to try to adapt to ourselves, rather than standards. We can admire whatever good things they create, while rejoicing in the different good things that God’s helping us create.

    I thought the way the OP puts to words what so many have experienced was beautiful.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s