Monday, June 29, 2009

What We Give Away

"Never reserve anything. Pour out the best you have, and always be poor. Never be diplomatic and careful about the treasure God gives. This is poverty triumphant." -Oswald Chambers

What is it that enriches our lives? Is it possessions? Is it occupation, vocation, degrees or awards? Then, shouldn't it make sense that the happiest people on earth be the lucky few with unlimited wealth, perfect health, fame or public honor? Yet, if I have all the wealth in the world, and no one to share it with, I am impoverished in the worst way imaginable.

One of the first social skills parents teach children is to share. It is a lesson we need to have drummed into our little heads for years because we are born yelling, "MINE!" My daughter recently observed two children she was babysitting as they played outside on their deck. The older child, a three year old, was eating Fruit Loops out of a bowl. His one year-old sister crawled over, pulled herself up to the bench beside him looking for a snack. The boy pulled his bowl away and told his sister, "No! This is mine!" When the baby persisted, he swept the entire bowl--cereal and all--onto the grass below, just so she couldn't have any. My daughter was shocked at this blatant display of selfishness. 30 years of parenting has tempered my response as I know this is nothing but typical toddler behavior. But what is "normal" in the development of small children looks appalling on adults: How lonely our lives are if we become stuck in this Me First mindset! Fully aware of how socially unacceptable this behavior is, I am frequently tempted to cloak my own persistent selfishness with thoughts like these, "Well, I have to take care of myself, too!" And, "We have our own bills to pay." Or, "I'm always the one who calls/gives/helps. Let someone else take a turn."

I recall a situation a few years back when one of my children didn't want to share and God allowed me a glimpse into my own heart: There was a new student coming to school and I told my characteristically generous child, "Why don't you give a little gift of some of your school supplies to the new girl? I'll take you to Target after school and buy you more." And she refused. I was stunned. Did she think that I really wouldn't follow through on my promise to replace what she gave? That she might get stuck with boring yellow #2s or lame pink rectangles instead of the glittery pencils and dolphin erasers I had bought initially? I tried another approach. I told my daughter that I was willing to buy her a dozen new pencils if she would share one--I would buy a whole package of cuter erasers than the one she didn't want to give away. I tried to paint a picture of how welcomed the new girl would feel by this simple act of kindness and wouldn't she like someone to treat her that way? Still, she resisted.

I was speechless with holy indignation. I wasn't asking the child to give something that cost her anything. I had bought every single one of the supplies in her overloaded backpack (plus the backpack itself and all her new school clothes!) I felt anger rising as color in my face. Before I reached the boiling point, I caught myself with a single thought: How do I act when I am asked to give something away? Do I remember that everything I own, every talent I possess, every breath that I take, every moment I call mine---is a gift? Am I aware that every single time I yield myself as a conduit of blessing to another, I make room in my heart for a generous God to pour in more to keep the cycle going?

It is easy for me to say, "I love you so much I would give up my life for you." Really? But would I lay down my life? Can I set aside my own desires to see someone else happy? Would I give up the last piece of chocolate cake? Would I take that call in the middle of the night? Would I rather go without the reward to see you succeed?

I believe that happiness only comes when we give what we have away.

I've heard it said, "We can't out-give God." What would life be like if we all made it our goal to die trying?

1 comment:

  1. Yikes! How convicting! Just think of how differently we'd shop, drive, converse if this were our mindset. I'd say, "You have fewer items than me - go ahead." I'd let the jerk who was passing everyone on the shoulder merge in front of me at the last minute, instead of making him slam on his breaks just to show my disapproval. I'd give my time LISTENING, and not make an excuse when our elderly neighbor offers me a chair to sit and visit longer.

    Thanks for this perspective. Thanks for reminding me to "make room in my heart..."