I posted a photo on Instagram in mid-March of a roll of toilet paper in one of our two bathrooms, accompanied by a tongue-in-cheek caption referencing our family’s tremendous faith in not rushing out to purchase a lifetime supply. I remember thinking at the time, “What are we missing? Why the rush on Sam’s to line our storage with toilet paper? If the world comes to an end tomorrow, will we truly be grateful that we at least had toilet paper?” But things went from being laughable and slightly strange to a little more sobering and thought-provoking. And prayerful. “Lord, what do we make of all this?”
One thing I did notice was that, as we discovered for the first time in our generation that supplies of basic items were indeed in limited supply (partly due to anxious, overly terrified citizens who were stock-piling and partly due to reduced shipments to our local suppliers), I began thinking a little differently about how we used those particular items. All of a sudden, I found myself saying to the children, “Girls, don’t use an abundance of toilet paper for each use. We don’t know when we’ll get more.” When cleaning the house, I didn’t liberally spray the cleaner as my usual tendency. Even in my cooking, I monitored my use of particular ingredients with the understanding: I may not be able to replace that quite as easily this week. When the meat scare erupted, we bought more meat that week than we would typically buy in several weeks. Why? It was on sale and there was no guarantee that any would be available for purchase within the coming few weeks.
I’m grateful to say that I don’t have much reference point for lack in my history. While my parents faced difficult times when I was a baby and we practiced common sense and frugal spending throughout my raising and now in my adult life, I don’t recall a time that could be called true desperation. We’ve always worked hard, God has always provided for us, and we have never taken that provision lightly. But throughout this pandemic our nation and communities were faced with the reality: whether we could actually pay for the supplies or not, oftentimes they weren’t available to purchase. And we had to ration out our use to make the supplies go further.
The flip side of that? Once it became more common to see toilet paper or cleaning solution on the store shelves, I used those products more liberally. When cleaning, two sprays were easier to let slide over just the one. We freely stocked the girls’ bathroom with toilet paper rather than keep some back beyond their reach. We had ample supply so we felt empowered to use more.
We had ample supply so we felt empowered to use more.
I couldn’t help but draw a parallel in my mind this week with how that liberal use of adequate supply invades every part of our lives as believers. When we have been resting, we don’t siphon out the energy we use like a dog guarding his favorite toy or treat. When we feel well-loved, we typically abandon reason and love back with everything inside us. When we relish in an abundance of community within relationships and the local church body, we send out the invitation, “Come one! Come all!” When we’ve received an overflow in God’s presence, we love better, give more, and spread joy. And when we’ve been filled with the Holy Spirit, our daily lives are marked by power and a burning desire to share the Good News with everyone we meet.
If you’ve noticed that you’ve had less to give our of your own life’s reserve, let me encourage you to tap into the Ultimate Supply. Unlike your local grocer or box store, there’s an endless supply. But you’ll have to go get it. You’ll have to stop and receive it. And you’ll have to keep going back when you’ve given it away. Just like any other replenish-able resource, giving it away is what keeps it from becoming diseased, moldy, stinky, or sour. Take in His love, then give it away. Take in His peace, then give it away. Take in His power, then use it for His glory. Absorb His presence, then live it out before those in your world.
Take in. Give out.
It’s a beautiful picture of divine distribution.