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Swimming in Scarcity

Emily Dean

Assateague Island-71.jpg
Perhaps rather than fighting against the ebb and the scarcity, we should learn how to swim in it.

Every season of our lives is marked by days of plenty and by days of scarcity; everything ebbs and everything flows. Along the way, most of us have learned to lean strongly into the plenty and the flow, to swim in it, to sprinkle it over our heads in laughter and carefree dancing. But when the days of scarcity hit, we too often flail and struggle, choking on the churning water, screaming at the heavens, demanding safety and sunshine.  

And with scarcity, it’s not a matter of “if” it hits, it’s a matter of “when.” At some point, scarcity hits our emotional health, the stock level of the refrigerator, the pursuit of passion projects, the dollar signs in the bank account. Scarcity even affects the depth of our friendships, the bonds of family, the strength of our marriages, and our perception of self-worth.

But somewhere, somehow, we bought into the lie that our seasons of scarcity somehow indicate deep and inherent weakness and lesser-than-ness. We started believing the voices that tell us that scarcity doesn't just mean a lack of something materialistic or emotional—a temporary state of being—but that seasons of scarcity instead highlight that we ourselves, as individual human beings, are not enough. Suddenly, the manifestation of scarcity in tight budgets and tense relationships is no longer just a mere representation of situational circumstances (which are capable of change), but a representation of an incomplete self (something of which to be deeply ashamed).

I want to invite our mistaken souls to reconsider.

See when we view scarcity only as a curse—as an indication that we are somehow incomplete, missing the mark, or somehow doing something wrong—we miss the chance to see scarcity for the true blessing that it really is. If we listen to what it has to say, scarcity often has the power to inspire us toward a course change, setting us toward the exact purpose that we had been searching for and pining after.

Scarcity isn’t here to tell us that we’re failing as individuals because an area of our life lacks something. Scarcity is simply here to ring a bell and highlight an opportunity for growth and change.

Almost anyone that loves the beach is familiar with the signs lining walkways that caution against riptides, followed by information on what to do when caught up in it. Rather than flailing and fighting against the tide, the signs instruct us to swim with it, to turn our bodies parallel to the shore, to move our arms into its strength, and let it carry us with it until it subsides.

I wonder if our posture toward scarcity wouldn’t benefit from adopting a similar posture.

Perhaps rather than fighting against the ebb and the scarcity, we should learn how to swim in it. For, if we turn our bodies and swim alongside the shore, our whole selves caught up in the tide that pulls and threatens, we’ll eventually find our way out, though wrecked and battered our bodies may be. Rather than struggling against the terrifying pull of quiet, lonely, and scarce seasons, we can let go of our expectations and desires for what could be and instead adapt to what is.

Dare I say we might even learn how to thrive in scarcity?

For with each arm swing forward, we move ourselves and our lives further down the shore, away from where we had sat before, stagnant, content to splash around in the same abundant water, day after day. And on the other side of scarcity, we might even find that we end up somewhere else entirely, somewhere our feet, in the shallow water of plenty, would never have thought to take us.

So sister, don’t fight the change that scarcity heralds. Rather, lean into it, swim with it, see how far down the shoreline it’ll get you.

Article by Angelina Danae | Photography by Hilary Hyland