A Funny Thing Happened on the Way To Depletion

A funny thing happens when we give more than we receive. 

Not “funny” as in haha, because I’m not laughing right now. 

Rather, “funny” in the sense that it is obvious and predictable, like how a freight train barreling toward a parked car on the tracks of a railroad crossing will win every time. 

A guy oughta know better or see it coming, but it still happens.  And when it does, it still hurts and a guy still grieves. 

The funny thing then?  Sooner or later, we’ll be depleted

No matter the commodity – food, time, energy, money, life – it doesn’t take an economist to forecast the outcome of giving more than we receive.


But there is a rescue point.

I’m not certain just where, but somewhere on the low end of the chart; somewhere before depletion, the giver…um…swings, I guess? 

Maybe like how one will walk toward a still lake and notice the reflection of the lakes surrounding beauty gleaming from the surface and be mesmerized, hoping only to splash about in God’s wondrous creation…  Right up until the moment before one steps from the shore into the lake, when the lakes murky depth is unfurled and one proceeds with self-centered caution leaving the hope on the rocks.

We go into a sort of self-preservation mode.  Survival becomes paramount.  We don’t stop giving; or moving toward the deep.  But, instead of giving away to others, we give away to ourselves. 

The cost of giving away to others becomes exorbitant. 

Too steep.  Excessive. 

And we feel it in ways that sneak up behind us without notice, like a wild cat on its prey. 

We have no more to give away.  What we have left we must give to ourselves or we’ll cease breathing…in any number of ways.  We move self-consciously toward the deep.

Here is not a swing toward receiving.  By now, we’ve been giving far too long and far too much to receive.  The capacity to open our hands and reach out is still far off.  Instead, we reach in and take what we give ourselves.  We give and take within our being.  We become self-consumed. 

This is the rescue point.  Here is where those who are well must notice and sneak in and, in a sense, force themselves upon us with the abundance they enjoy. 

I know, I know…  It’s hard to get near the nearly depleted one.

For starters, they – I mean we stand off, back from the source of giving.  Often we’re crowded out by the ignorant.  Never-the-less, we must be watched out for.  We’re dying inside.

Living near depletion feels like a drowning scene.  Imagine the gasping for breath, the splashing, the groping about the water’s surface for any floating branch or stick or leaf, the last-ditch-hoping that even a passing stem may keep us afloat. 

Further, the nearly depleted one is hard to get near because, well, we look sick or toxic or arrogant to the passerby.  We don’t make eye contact.  We take the shortest distance to an exit to preserve the short supply of whatever we used to give away for ourselves. 

But this self-preservation mode somehow and for some reason becomes a dire requirement to press on.  It becomes requisite to finding the dawn of another day, and the means to move through the dawn toward dusk.

Even still, we must be approached, sought out, noticed.  Depletion is a death sentence.  Near depletion is the short narrowing hallway that leads there. 

Throughout these thoughts you’ve noticed the plural pronoun.  “We” has helped me feel less lonely in my dealings with living near depletion.  A quick glance around the classroom, the store, the sanctuary, the city sidewalks, and the country roads reveals the nearly depleted ones aren’t alone.  But it so often feels like it. 

Reality is, in our techno-thieving culture, we all live near depletion to lesser or greater degrees.  And since degrees and comparisons aren’t helpful, well, “we” seemed the best way to invite you to join me in the need for life breath.

Perhaps you’re reading this and picturing in your mind or heart one that is living near depletion.  They don’t call and rarely stop to talk.  Text replies are short, one word, no emoji’s.  They don’t volunteer anymore.  They’re stepping back from responsibilities that used to apparently give them life.  They are selling things that they used to hold in esteem.  They stand on busy street corners with signs asking for anything…because anything helps. 

My request to you would be to go after them.  The moment you notice someone living near depletion is the moment you become the rescue team.  Take your abundance and force yourself upon them with gentleness and honor and respect.  They have, perhaps loved much.  Now love them.

MARGIN:  Here a word for those giving more than they receive; those with a reasonable reserve yet to give, but are heading toward a life lived near depletion.  Though still a fair distance off, note well this…

Back in the day, when I was in grad-school, there were strict requirements for submitting written work.  Papers had to be typed.  Hand written was no longer acceptable.  Further…

Times New Roman font
Sized to 12 point
Double spaced
1” margins

Maybe you remember all that.  It made sense then.  It makes sense now. 

Try reading and adding comments or corrections to single spaced papers with near zero margin and 9 point font.  Every word is pressed up against another word, pressing other words closer to an edge, virtually falling off the page.  Just looking upon it, let alone reading it, feels crippling or overwhelming.   

We need margins to hear commentary and correction from others.  We need space between the lines to receive affirmation and critique on what we did well and what needs to be improved.   

You’re beginning to see the practice transfer to principle…?

My good friend Eric uses the term “margin” to refer to the space in his life reserved for others to come along with pen in hand, so to speak, and scribble in observations, annotations, clarifications, interpretations, and so on and so forth.

I think he’s got something there.  Adding some margin to these lives we live is like adding existence.  The margin is where we breathe deep; where we inhale and exhale, a dialogue with life-breath.  The margin is where folks are welcome to comment and give courage; change a word tense or add some punctuation or ask for clarity or nix something completely.  The margin is a standing invitation to partake in a giving and receiving relationship with those who you love, and who love you. 

No margin?  We inhale.  We suck wind.  We can’t get enough on the page.  We drown in a pool of more and more giving. 

With margin, we have food, time, energy, money, life to receive to a fullness and hence-forth begin to give again.


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