When Enough is Enough

I awaken with a jolt, startled by the icy window-pane against my face. My eyes, heavy and aching for sleep, roam the dim cabin- thirsty to drink in the reality around me.

The bus is jam-packed with bags and people- some of my teammates attempt sleep on the floor, a last ditch effort to find some measure of space and warmth.

I’m clothed four layers thick in a seat that won’t budge- my muscles cramp, screaming in protest, but my mind screams louder.

I am cold, frustrated, exhausted and in this moment, nothing helps- nothing is enough.

I wrap my coat tight around me, lower my head, and still my thoughts. With five hours behind me and fifteen hours ahead, of this I am certain: there will be no sleep tonight.

I wipe my window clean with my hand, unveiling a sharp view of the full-moon. It stands steady, suspended above the blur of passing trees- its warm light sets aglow the empty sky on this freezing night.

It doesn’t matter the continent on which my feet are planted, a glimpse of the moon pulls my thoughts like gravity back to those with whom my heart is planted. On this night, somewhere in the middle of Serbia, memories of Lunitsa roll in like waves of a high tide.

I loved my visits with her.

She is a widow in Romania, a forgotten statistic in a vast sea of rural oppression and poverty. Her home was without electricity or plumbing, an old wood stove would be her only heat source this winter if she could find and afford a season’s supply of firewood.

Soiled rugs covered dirt floors and dull tapestries were displayed with pride on stained walls. She told me the tapestries were hand-sewn many years ago- she was happy to show them off, delighted at my genuine interest.

Occasionally the front door would creak open, inviting the chickens to wander in with the October wind. It was damp and cold in the way a cave or dungeon might be, but she radiated the kind of warmth that made me forget the surrounding misery.

She spoke of her children only when asked. Her son had moved to Germany for work- she hasn’t seen him in years. I can’t fathom leaving my mother like this, but in a region where the unemployment rate exceeds 60%, this is a common story- the young generation abandoning the old in a quest to create a life beyond basic survival.

Her daughter, though living nearby- lives a distant life, medicating the pain of her husband’s merciless beatings with a merciless addiction. This is the only time Lunitsa’s countenance and posture changed- trading in lighthearted joy for the iron cloak of a mother’s burden.

Her shoes are nearly broken in half, but her spirit isn’t. Her eyes are dulled by the thick film of blinding cataracts, but still twinkle with joy and mischief.

She has a coy smile and sharp humor. She makes inappropriate comments about me getting pregnant, then hugs me close like a grandma.

Connection is immediate and I adore her.

“Lunitsa, what do you need for the winter?” I asked on my last visit, cautious to balance my question with careful respect and let’s- get- to- it American efficiency.

 I was not prepared for her reply: simple, honest and pure.

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“I have enough”, she said.

I could not absorb it. Sitting in her home, with dirt floors beneath me and a rotting ceiling above, I began to fight back tears.

She has nothing material and calls it enough. I come from the land of excess- molded by a culture of never enough.

Never enough saved. Never enough time. Never enough to wear. Never enough stuff.

Lunitsa lives in the cloudy haze of cataracts- she is without vision, but I’m the one that is blind.

I’ve lived blinded by materialism, diseased with discontent, and overdosing on the prescribed cure-all for more. Nestled comfortably in the cocoon of first world excess, I have often found myself suspended in the space between boredom and fear: numbed by comfort, yet terrified to surrender those comforts.

Overstressed. Overmedicated. Overextended. Over-scheduled. Indebted. Entitled. Enslaved… to a mindset that exalts discontent as ambition, busyness as success, and binges on a steady diet of self.

I have offered to help Lunitsa, but in the humor of God which so often turns me upside down: I am the one that needs what she has.

She is Philippians 4 embodied, because as it turns out, Paul didn’t write it to Americans about winning football games. He wrote it in the filth of a Roman prison cell, and I am witnessing the words bloom to life in the filth of a widow’s home in Romania.

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand… for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.

This isn’t philosophy. This is total freedom- the graveyard of anxiety and birthplace of meaning.

G.K. Chesterton once said, “There are two ways to get enough. One is to continue to accumulate more and more. The other is to desire less.”

I assert that one path brings freedom, while the other brings enslavement- starving dreams and adventure in order to feed the insatiable beast of never enough.

I choose freedom.

I awaken with a jolt, startled by the icy window-pane against my face. My eyes, heavy and aching for sleep, roam the dim cabin- thirsty to drink in the reality around me. I wrap my coat tight around me, lower my head, and still my thoughts.

The moon is still full and bright- I see it’s reflection rippling in the water below as we cross a narrow bridge, barreling ahead into the dark unknown. Burn all the bridges behind me that would take me back to an ungrateful life, I pray.

I have enough.

 

7 thoughts on “When Enough is Enough

  1. seems like God has had a number of us on a similar journey, a path toward the beauty of contentment with a simple life

    nicely written, a pleasure to meditate on

    be well

  2. Please put me on your mailing list if you have one. What do you need? How can I help? I can’t go, but I can send care pkg. or an offering.

  3. Your descriptive journaling is powerful … transporting me to places I’ll never go, challenging me in ways I never want to forget, while effectively diagnosing the disease of my own apathy and ingratitude.

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