I was putting a list of requirements on it like I do when I tip at a restaurant. Like a waitress that makes several trips to check on my food and fills my drink I feel the generosity well up inside of me to bless her hard work, but then I penalize a waiter that lazily sits in the break room smoking, while I go thirsty. I wanted my mandatory “gift” to be deserved. This mindset then followed into the not so mandatory areas of giving. I would question every situation in which it was in my power to act with thoughts like “Would the homeless person use my gift to eat or would he waste it on alcohol and drugs.” I felt justified in my questioning and I decided that giving should be something I would be wise and shrewd about and only if God truly put it on my heart to give, would I give. I didn’t understand that most likely by the time that God spoke it would be too late or that by the time he broke through all the callused layers of my heart I would have lost an opportunity to love. I didn’t know that I had gotten so judgmental about those in need until I recently had an experience with giving that really showed me that I needed to let God purge a little bit of my selfishness out of the mix.
It was just a gas station, I was getting gas, some drinks and snacks for the long six hours ahead. I had my youngest with me, a sweet little three year old full of joy and excitement as we chose our special treat. In the next isle over a father and two little girls were also picking out snacks and drinks. When he went to pay his card was declined. He went out to get money from his girlfriend and when he came back he told the excited girls to put it back, because they had to go. I didn’t even hesitate, maybe because the girls were a reflection of innocence, maybe because God got through to me, but I offered to pay for the snacks. “No just put it on mine.” I said to the teller. He felt embarrassed and starting to decline it, he said, “I feel bad.” I said, “No, don’t feel bad, you have some really precious girls, consider it an early thanksgiving.” He thanked me more than once and we went our ways.
My original thought was that he was acting a little strange, like a man on something, or coming off of something (probably drugs). But that was usually the case with me, I find a million reasons why I shouldn’t just give. I felt a mix of feelings getting into the car and driving through the flat uninteresting prairie of Nebraska. For miles I had nothing to do but count windmills and plenty of time to think. I thought about how good it felt to show Love to a stranger, but I also felt a deep conviction at how new that feeling felt. I would be lying to say the good feeling somehow made up for the selfishness I had been passing off as good judgment or discernment. I felt as though that little bit of light was shining a whole lot brighter because this area in me was a dark and unfamiliar place. I was exposed.
I am not meaning this to be a word that brings condemnation but sometimes revelation to our not so pretty areas tends to feel a bit disturbing at times. I prayed for that man and his family, for those girls, for Jesus to be revealed in all of his goodness. I prayed for forgiveness for the times I just shut out others because I was uncomfortable or uninterested. I also asked God to continue to work in me in this area and to help me not to put stipulations on his goodness. We tend to get a little prideful and want to bless those that we feel are deserving but when we do the choosing aren't we playing God's part? Only God knows what God knows and he has given freely to all. I remembered a verse from Proverbs that spoke to this very situation. Proverbs 3:27 Do not withhold help from those who need it when you have the ability to help.
I am so thankful that Christ took this verse to heart. He was the only one who had the ability to help us. His very life showed compassion and mercy and grace and forgiveness. It is never about what we have or have not done with Christ. With Christ it is the message that no matter how much or how little sacrifice we put before him, His sacrifice was enough to cover our bill. He didn’t ask us how we got there, and he didn’t even care because he saw us as a valued creation, as God’s beloved children and he offered his life to be the sacrifice that would bring us into a place where we could finally know our Father, know a God who this world claims has long left, a God that in truth has been waiting for his children to seek him, rather than chase them as they run. Make no mistake our God has pursed us even unto the death of his very son who offered himself as the way to show that he would go to hell and back for us. He came for us all, he died so that we could understand a love that puts no shame to our name. So as I contemplated my decision to call myself a child of God, I realized that I, not unlike Christ need to show his unconditional love, his unconditional grace and his unconditional generosity.
God may we become more like you, more generous, more kind and more open to love. You are a generous God and if we are really your children than we too should be a reflection of your unfailing generous spirit. Holy Spirit breathe your truth in us and teach us how to stop reacting to the worlds ways and start acting out of love and kindness. We want to honor you in all we do and we know that one of the ways we can do this is by reflecting the truth of your loving kindness. You are the perfection of balance in all things and we ask for that balance of wisdom and generosity to be present in our lives. We can never love too much, or give too much, or show you too much to others. Let us be as generous with others as you have been with us. Amen