The Trauma of Lack
“When I was your age . . .” Often I would hear this in the context of making money, consuming products, or simply discussing need. Following those classic words would be a relative’s story on how their household (fresh off the plane from Puerto Rico) would have to live simply to make ends meet or how they got by and flourished in life without half of the things I claimed were necessary to flourish.
But, real talk, it’s usually absurd in those situations to think that a lifestyle back then could fit into a lifestyle in 2019 -- right? I guess with a grain of salt the “when I was your age . . .” provides a great opportunity to reflect on my consuming and conserving habits. Maybe I can learn from the more simplistic models of the past; maybe there are realistic ways to implement in the present what we remember from the past. If you were with us in Pasadena this last Sunday, Brit invited us into a similar conversation around Deuteronomy 26.1-11 where God provides the Israelites with rhythms that help them remember simpler times and how God provided back then to help them live generously and wisely in the present as opposed to lives of harmful lavishness or stinginess.
In our group discussion time, someone mentioned that most of us really struggle to live into rhythms of remembrance and discipline because “we suffer from traumas of lack.” Whether we’ve come from contexts where we had little but now a lot or we’ve grown up with only having a lot, the idea, or even the small experience, of scarcity alarms us, leading some of us to wild out with our consuming or conserving.
When thinking about scarcity versus flourishing, my mind goes to the story of Thanos in Avengers: Infinity War. The Mad Titan obsesses over the fact that the universe is overpopulated with people who abuse and voraciously consume resources. So his simple, yet extreme, calculus is to erase half of the universe’s population with the “infinity gauntlet” a device that allows him to manipulate time and space. To activate it he must clinch his fist (a gesture of scarcity) or snap his finger (a gesture of instant gratification). Like us, Thanos experienced “trauma of lack” in the depletion of natural resources on his home planet which led to the extinction of his species and like us Thanos acted on this trauma.
While subtle, these fears of lack can control our consuming and conserving habits in extreme ways. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie reminds us that living according one story can be dangerous as in the fictional case with Thanos. I think that’s why God felt it necessary to provide God’s people with communal rhythms that broke them out of their one story mindset and reminded them of times of provision, simplicity, and deliverance; stories where hoarding or lavish spending did not save them but trust, discipline, reflection, and community did.
If you're interested in learning about what kind of habits of remembering and discipline we're trying to implement in our community, hit us up! Let's live genrously and wisely together.