“And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” 1 Cor. 13:13
This is going to sound weird, but every time I look at my bare fingernails during this strange time of social distancing and self-quarantine, it makes me think of another word we are hearing a lot these days…“essential.” Then, I start thinking about what is really essential in life. Clearly gel manicures are not, but sometimes things like bare nails make you have deep thoughts.
It’s in the difficult times, the times we have suffered or experienced disappointment and loss, that what is really important comes more sharply into focus.
As I’ve traveled around the world to many developing countries I’m always keenly aware that most of us Americans don’t have to think of the essentials very often. I remember asking a friend in Uganda about where to find toothpaste and he replied, “Toothpaste is a luxury most Ugandans could never afford.”
Once in Somalia in an IDP camp I asked a family their favorite food. They looked at me a little confused by my question and answered “rice and beans.” I realized, rice and beans is all they have, and most likely all they have ever eaten. They don’t have variety in their food choices. They eat what they have and that’s rice and beans therefore, it’s their favorite meal.
Wants or likes or desires are not even considered in many countries around the world; it’s only need. How blessed are we! We say we “need” a new pair of tennis shoes when our old shoes still fit and do the job just fine, or we “need” a latte when we all know oat milk honey lattes are not actually essential to life.
The reality is that in America we haven’t had to think about the word “essential” much, until now. There have been a few times in my life when I’ve become more aware of needs and wants and the difference between the two, nothing in comparison to what many in the world face, but small reminders of this truth.
Willie and I were just eighteen and nineteen years old when we said “I do.” We headed off to college the next day. Literally. We got married on a Saturday and started school on Monday. It was fine with us; we were just excited to be married and start our life together in our very own teeny tiny apartment walking distance from campus (because we only had one car). The apartment was so small that when we took a shower the steam from the shower would set off the smoke alarm that was in the kitchen just a couple of steps from the bathroom. To solve that problem we took the batteries out of the smoke detector. Probably not the safest solution, but hey, we were just teenagers! We were on a very tight budget. I remember one of our big fights was when we actually had about $3 left in our “grocery envelope” (thank you Dave Ramsey) and I wanted to buy a magazine with the extra money, but Willie wanted to buy a pack of baseball cards; he was a collector. I can’t remember who won that argument, but I remember wanting the luxury of buying something that wasn’t exactly essential.
Another time in our life that I was more aware of the essentials was after we had four kids, and we had just taken over running Duck Commander. The company was struggling financially. One of our big accounts had pulled out, and we weren’t sure how we were going to make it. Willie and I didn’t want to let anybody go, most of the people who worked for Duck Commander at the time were family so we couldn’t just fire them, and the few that weren’t family were people that we loved and were important to keeping the company going. The only real choice we felt we had was to personally hold our paychecks until we got the company back off the ground.
Thankfully we had saved a little money for a rainy day (again, thank you Dave Ramsey) so we knew we could do that for a few months if we just cut back to “the essentials.” We called the cable company and cancelled our cable, dropped our health club membership, no more buying clothes or the random thing at the check out counter, no mani’s or pedi’s or going out to eat, we cut back on all of the “extras” and made a pact to only buy what we needed so that our money would last us for a while, and we could still feed our family. We held our checks that whole Summer until hunting season came back around in November and people start buying duck calls again. Then we had enough in the Duck Commander account to pay ourselves.
During this pandemic, we’re all thinking about the essentials. The toilet paper aisle is still empty at the grocery store we shop at. Toilet paper feels like an essential, right? But people around the world even live without that. So far we haven’t had to do that in our home, but I can tell you I’m more aware of how much I use every single time I go to the bathroom. I want to make it last! I really haven’t missed getting my nails done, or shopping at the mall, but I have missed hugging my grandmother, having my grand babies spend the night, visiting with co-workers, having lunch with friends. I’ve missed the things deep down we all know are the really important things in life.
I love 1 Corinthians 13. It’s the chapter all about love. Paul says if I have anything or everything in life, but I don’t have love, “I gain nothing” and “I am nothing.” Vs 2, 3. Those are big statements, but so true. We all know or have heard of people that seem to have everything materially that we think we all want in life: money, clothes, house, travel…but they are miserable, lonely, unhappy, mean-spirited. It’s because of this truth, when we strip it all away we realize our greatest need is love after all. Love is essential.
The good news is no matter how lonely you feel right now, no matter how many people have hurt you or rejected you, no matter the things you have gone through that have harmed you or that you feel ashamed of, YOU ARE LOVED. Loved by God your Father, the Creator of the universe, the One who made you and me and every single thing ever created. He loves you so much that He brought you to life and wants to be with you forever and ever.
An extension of that good news is that we were made in God’s image so that means you were not only made by love, because of love, but you also have love to give. It all comes down to love. 1 Cor. 13, the love chapter, ends with these words, “and now these three remain, faith, hope and love, and the greatest of these is love.”
This is what’s essential.
Korie Robertson is a New York Times bestselling author and speaker who is passionate about motherhood. Korie (K-Swaggy) is a mom to Sadie — and five other amazing kids. In her free time, you’ll find her playing tennis, drinking coffee and spending time with her kids and grand babies.
Follow Korie on Instagram @bosshogswife