[G]ive me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is needful for me, Proverbs 30:8b.
For five years, I was an English teacher at Grace Prep High School in State College, Pennsylvania. Every year, the school participates in Air School—learning outside the classroom. In 2009, Air School consisted of a long weekend in an Amish community in Virginia.
My husband Paul and I and three students stayed with an Amish family—mother, father, and their three remaining, as yet unmarried, children. Seven other children had grown up, married, and established their own homes, so there was plenty of room for us.
No electrical lighting, no microwave, no television, no radio, (I-pods and phones were verboten to ensure the authentic experience), and no computers. There was a propane powered hot water tank (Yay!) and we cooked on the woodstove (in May!). We washed dishes by hand in the sink and dried them with a linen towel. We tried to milk the goats.Meals started in the fields and emerged from the kitchen—homemade bread, cheese aged on the farm, rhubarb from the garden. Everyone worked hard; everyone ate well. Conversation adorned our work; play and fellowship guided our evenings. We prayed together before and after every meal. Before each meal, our host Jerry thanked God for the feast and asked Him to help us to eat only a reasonable amount, to eat that which would be enough.
Bread baked in the woodstove oven, the granola we mixed, baked, cooled and blended with chocolate chips, feeding hearty appetites grown through physical labor. Enough was hard to define there just as it had been at home. How much was enough? Oh, just a few more bites, just a little more to savor. Even though our visit lasted only three days, I carried more protoplasm out of Virginia than I had carried in. Pushing ourselves away from the table is often the hardest physical exercise of all.
When we attempt to recall the seven deadly sins, gluttony might be the one we struggle hardest to remember —especially when an Amish feast is before us. But the seven deadly sins—gluttony, greed, wrath, pride, envy, lust, and sloth—are all sins of excess. We can eat the right amount of food, buy the right amount of material goods, have the right amount of appropriate anger, have the right mindset about ourselves, have the right mindset about others, properly direct our sexual desires, and engage in the proper amount of leisure and rest.
When we do, we have correctly identified enough. When we overindulge—or indulge where we should not, we embrace a deadly sin. That is—a deadly sin. We tell ourselves that a little bit more won’t matter—won’t hurt—is insignificant. Controlling all our appetites and attitudes—for food, for goods, for situations, toward others, and toward ourselves—requires discipline few of us fully grasp. And our sins of excess are more costly than we realize—in our relationships, in our health, in our finances, and in our ability to help others.
As many of us do, Jerry prayed before we ate. But after we ate, he thanked God again for His provision. Being thankful reminds us that we do not provide our own resources. We receive them through the grace and mercy of God. Asking God to help us consume enough, to control our emotions and desires—to find our enough in Him and in our love for each other will help us be ready to look beyond our desires to see others’ needs and to have resources on hand to meet those needs.
The enough we find in Him prepares us to minister in our communities in ways we have not yet thought possible—to minister in service and in giving—being companions within communities.
I’m grateful for the three days I walked through an Amish community, for the companions who walked with me there. I hope it made me a better companion to walk with others in my part of the world. For walking with others is the true work of the Church.