May 20, 2010

On Elegant Sufficiency

Posted in Spiritual Life tagged , , , , at 7:08 pm by Mo Dardinger

Today at lunch, I quoted my father to my girlfriends. I don’t quote him often. He didn’t teach me much. I wasn’t open to instruction, and he wasn’t particularly communicative.

My father was, though, a good man in lots of ways. He recognized and opposed pride. He supported his wife and children, then later his second wife and me, his last child.

He had supported his mother and younger siblings, too, when his alcoholic father abandoned the family. He’d had to drop out of school in the fourth grade to earn a living for them. But he didn’t boast, and he didn’t complain.

He worked as a baker, eventually owning his own large bakery. Later he worked for others, mostly as a pastry chef.

For recreation, he went deer hunting with his buddies or gambled at the local dog track. He was a hard-working, responsible fellow. He drank, but not to excess.

Dad smoked, but he quit cold turkey one day and never looked back. I’ve always been proud of him for that.

My father made friends easily with those he worked with and for. He enjoyed a good laugh.

After a meal with friends, at their place or ours, he would often proclaim, “I have had an elegant sufficiency.” Isn’t that a choice phrase? “An elegant sufficiency.” It says, “I’m satisfied. I’ve eaten enough. I don’t need any more, thanks.”

More than that, it states that what is “sufficient” is all that is needful. One ought to be satisfied with “enough,” with that which is “sufficient.” That which is enough is elegant by virtue of being the proper amount, that which is fitting, that which is needful.

If we have food and covering, with these we shall be content. ~ 1 Timothy 6:8 (NASB) ~

The apostle Paul promotes the correct attitude in this verse, doesn’t he? Who says we need to stuff ourselves until we can’t hold another morsel? Who says we in the developed world have a God-given right to feast every day while the rest of the world scratches for a living? God Himself would be the first to deny such a “right” exists and to call for a limit to our self-indulgence and greed.

Believe me, I have been living well, eating well, and not engaging in self-denial on behalf of the poor or anyone else. All this while working for a charity that serves the poor, while reading the Bible regularly, and while associating with others who love the Lord. Sometimes the blinders we wear are invisible to us, and sometimes we excuse our own behavior too readily. At least, I do. But I see the need to change, and today I took a baby step in a new direction.

For lunch out with my friends today, I ordered just a bowl of soup. It cost a bit less than the sandwiches or the salads. It came with bread and made for a delicious, satisfying, filling meal. Thus my quotation of my father to my friends: “As my father used to say, ‘I have had an elegant sufficiency.'”

May it become a common phrase on my lips, and may more of my father’s goodness and kindness influence my heart and mind in the months and years to come.