By Elisa Morgan
When I lived on campus in college, Friday night was ice cream night. Actually, it was “all you can eat ice cream buffet” night. The normal cafeteria spread of main course, veggies and salad bar was available as always. But on Friday nights, the dining room offered a self-serve display of huge five-gallon tubs of ice cream followed by smaller vessels of toppings and spray cans of whipped cream.
I loved Friday nights! I’d nibble a few bites of meatloaf or whatever dinner fare was offered while hording my caloric intake for the good stuff. Peppermint was my favorite. I’d grab the scoop, form a few mounds and plunk them in a bowl. Then came the chocolate ice cream, usually two more spheres atop the mounds of peppermint. Then the hot fudge. Then the nuts. Then the whipped cream. Then the cherries.
I’d spoon in mouthful after mouthful until the creamy layers melted into a gooey liquid that I drank straight from the bowl. Yum. Sometimes I’d go back for seconds. This became my Friday night ritual.
Why? Because peppermint ice cream was my reward for working hard at school far away from home. Because peppermint ice cream comforted me on no-date weekends. Because peppermint ice cream was “free.”
Because I could?
How very many of my habits, my possessions and my choices are simply shaped by what I “could do”? Honestly, if I hadn’t had access to a Friday night ice cream buffet, would I have cared? Or would I have just satisfied myself with some other distraction?
I think I have about eight pair of black shoes. Flats and Skechers. Sequined strappy sandals I wore when I was Mother of the Bride. A few pair of higher heels for better-than-average days. Then there are the boots – ankle length, knee-high with low and high heels respectively, suede and leather. Oh, and flip flops.
Mercy. Why do I have so many pair of black shoes? Because black goes with everything. Because I wear a size 6 and clearance racks bulge with offerings. Because I have a “rule” that I never pay more than $40 for a pair of shoes and more often I stay in the $15 range - so when you add it up, my shoe wardrobe altogether costs less than some women shell out for a couple of pair of designer shoes.
Because I can?
Beyond ice cream and black shoes, what about the deeper elements of life? Might I overdo in any of a number of really good efforts – because I can? Looking back, I see seasons when I lost myself in great causes like mentoring, leading, speaking, writing and even friending. I’ve quickly responded with yeses to invitations and requests - because I could. I’ve ticked off boxes of accomplishment in efforts of friendships, career advancement, family time and even ministry while within, my being wilted from the well-intentioned exertion.
Paul writes in Philippians 4:11-13 words that trip up my tendency to overdo. “…I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.” I don’t think Paul was talking about ice cream or black shoes. The contentment he references is something much more core to humankind.
Okay, so I don’t really know what it’s like to be in need, to be hungry or to live in want. I know what it’s like to have plenty and be well fed. As I consider the continuum between want and plenty, I’m guessing that Paul’s point is not really about self deprivation but rather about a central understanding of contentment. Perhaps God’s desire is that we gain and retain an awareness of what enough means: to be satiated, satisfied with what he provides. And then to respond to life around us from the freedom such fullness allows.
So maybe the question before me (and you?) in so many moments is, “When is enough enough?” Whether with ice cream or shoes…or with responding to needs in the swirl of life might we ask ourselves, “Am I saying ‘no’ or ‘yes’ just because I can - or am I responding from a convinced and experienced ‘fullness’ that flows from all God has provided?”
When is enough enough?
Elisa Morgan has a new book releasing in October 2022 - Christmas Changes Everything. She is the cohost of the podcast, God Hears Her. She is also the cohost of Discover the Word and contributor to Our Daily Bread. Her other books include You Are Not Alone, When We Pray Like Jesus, The Beauty of Broken, and Hello, Beauty Full. Connect with Elisa @elisa_morgan on Twitter, and @elisamorganauthor on Facebook and Instagram.