When Scarcity Leads to Exclusion
Scarcity is a complex subject for me. And with it brings a lot of shame, but also, in my fledgling
understanding of it, so much hope.
Rewind to when I was a young 6 year old in thick glasses, sitting in Mrs Handy’s first grade class. There was a new girl in my class and I was so excited to be her friend that I could hardly wait for recess so I could go over and ask her to play. Recess time came and there were a couple other children lined up to say hi to the new girl, so I waited for my turn with anticipation. Along came the class bully, she looked at me with distain and said, “Why would she want to be YOUR friend? She doesn’t want to play with you…”. Crushed into a thousand pieces, I stood there on the hard concrete with tears streaming down my face, “why would she want to be my friend…” on repeat in my 6 year old mind. Defeated and heartbroken, I let the words of the class bully become truth to me. There wasn’t enough friendship to go around, friendship is scarce, love must be limited. What I didn’t share was, said “class bully” had multiple sclerosis, walked with crutches, and was more than likely fighting her own battle with scarcity.
Fast-forward into my very early 20’s. Newly married to a talented musician, and desperate to be seen for my own musical abilities and what I had to offer aside from him. To my shame and in my shame, I was so desperate to be seen that my energy was fiercely exclusive. If another female singer came into the mix, I was guarded and jealous. I was so scared that I’d be shoved out, never asked to sing again, and that my deepest fears would be confirmed, cementing in the narrative that ’’no-one wants you, you’ll never be good enough”. The memories around these occasions still to this day haunt me and cause me deep shame.
Fast-forward again to present time: I was recently sitting with some dear friends (outside, like a good little covite, social distancing like a pro). Up came the subject of racism; “all lives matter” versus “black lives matter”. My brilliant friend equated the mentality of “all lives matter” with a scarcity mentality. A massive penny dropped for me, I was internally halted in my tracks. I was like “hold the phone, shut the fridge door, wait a mother loving minute…” I have never heard of a scarcity mentality in this context…and that’s when my mind began to flood, it was overflowing with memories where scarcity was my motivator, but I hadn’t even known or understood. Memories like those shared above. I saw scarcity in so many tiny corners of my heart and mind that it was almost overwhelming and to this day I’m still trying to unpack.
I began to wonder when this scarcity mentality started and just how many areas of my life it’s reached. And that’s when it hit me like a ton of bricks: I have believed in a scarcity gospel, this is how I’ve seen God.
In my experience, a scarcity gospel very subtly (or not) preaches that there isn’t enough love for everyone, that God’s love only reaches those who have been exclusively chosen or who follow a strict set of guidelines. And if you do manage to follow those guidelines, be aware that if you slip up, you’ll disappoint God, and while he loves you, you’ll at the very least fall from his protective grace and live a life full of turmoil. While I haven’t believed all the nuances of this type of gospel for many, many years, I can see how it's definitely been a part of my formative views on God. As I sat and reflected on this type of view of God, I realized that I must also have a deep seated belief that alongside God’s love being limited, his grace must be limited too.
The reaches of this type of thinking go far. If there isn’t enough love to go around, then that type of thinking would say we need to be exclusive, protect what we have for the ones that think like us, walk like us, and believe like us. This type of thinking doesn’t limit itself to religion, but cross-pollinates into day to day life.
But that isn’t the message of Jesus. That isn’t the true way. While I’ve sung songs about the unending love and grace of God, it hasn’t been reflected in what I often hear and see preached, nor in the exclusivity of my thinking and lifestyle, to my shame. If I truly believe in a Gospel that is anti-scarcity, then that truly means that “everyone gets to play” full stop. God’s love isn’t limited, nor is God’s grace. That means that the playing field is wide. That means that there is more than enough room at the table. That looks like creating room for new and different voices, for the ones pushed aside and marginalized. That looks like unending love…full stop. No if, ands, or buts. And I know that in my case, it starts with shifting my thinkings once again, to a deeper level of “YES”