The spiritual life fascinates me. It reveals just how creative and nuanced the Lord can be in his mercy. Take the Christmas season. During this time of year I feel a particularly strong prick of conscience reminding me yet again of two of my chief weaknesses: stinginess and lack of trust.
The coming of Christmas signals the season of giving, not just of gifts to each other, but more importantly, gifts to the needy. Always tight with the purse strings, I pull them even tighter in anticipation of the amount of cash that will flow out of our bank account. I even scoff at the idea of charitable giving at this time of year, wondering why it’s a seasonal thing rather than a year-long effort. It’s all a ruse — I am avoiding the hard work of dealing with my weaknesses in truthfulness and humility. It’s much easier just to play Scrooge.
And here is where the amazing power of God’s mercy kicks in. Without my even uttering a quick prayer for help, He is already anticipating my need and working to pry open my heart. I imagine myself as a can of sardines with God carefully, gently, rolling back the lid to disclose what is inside. And as He does, He exposes my vulnerability, revealing to me how I can best give during this Season of Giving. It’s all about attitude.
There are an infinite number of ways to give and we must find those ways that best suit who we are. For then, we will give cheerfully. God is reminding me that many of the activities I already engage in do in fact, serve others. But not if I give it grudgingly or treat it as an imposition. No, it must be given freely in love. It must be given with complete trust that God will provide generously for me so that I can give it away to others.
This does not mean, however, that I am to avoid the giving that hurts. I still have to address my stinginess, brought on by a lifetime of wounds inflicted by my poor management of money. I have to address those wounds and bring them to God for healing. I have to be frank with Him and admit my lack of trust in His promise that there will be enough to go around. It seems to me that during this season I should reflect on the miracle of the loaves and fishes, and how the boy with just a few fish was able, due to his generosity, to participate in feeding five thousand people.
I need to reflect on the widow who contributed two small coins to the Temple, all that she had. While we never hear of her again, we know that Jesus praised her, knowing of her need. I only have to imagine that she was cared for as a result of her trust in God.
And then there is that other widow who encountered Elijah in the middle of a severe drought and famine. His request, that she bake him a cake with the last of her flour and oil, even as she had a child to feed, seemed unreasonable. Yet somehow, she was able to overcome her fear and provide for Elijah. And we know how that story ends — God makes sure that flour jar never goes empty.
And then, of course, there is the ultimate gift: the Son of God, the King of the Universe, laying down his life, paying our ransom for our deeds, and ensuring us a place in paradise if we but follow Him and His example of sacrificial love.
How generous God is with His love, wisdom and mercy! Focusing on these things, I can nurse my wounds and put away the Scrooge in me. Think of how much more I can give when I am whole again!
Copyright 2018 Susan W. Bailey