"It's better to give than to receive" somehow was forever planted in my memory verse bank. Possibly from a Precious Moments poster, or possibly from a Sunday School lesson.
As in many poster slogans and Sunday School lessons, however, it seemed like a nice idea that was unrealistic. It goes against common sense. You have to take care of yourself first, and if you have anything extra you can give that. But I never had extra. I always had wants that were not met, therefore, there was not extra.
And that seed went through seasons as simply a seed. A small, hard, fruitless seed with enormous potential.
During one of those fruitless seasons, I pondered how it was that others seemed to be free to give to me, but I felt like I was always on the receiving end. Even though there was the thought of how blessed I was that when I was in need someone thought of me, I so desperately wanted to be on the giving end. At this point, I had so little money to hand out. Conviction and desperation for a change gave me the strength to reach out a little at a time, one way or another. Sometimes is was free babysitting, providing a meal, and sometimes all I had to give was a prayer, which is no small gift.
The seed began to sprout. I was blessed by giving. It was hard, though. Some people did not care, maybe they did not appreciate my help, maybe they took me for granted. I mean, this was a huge deal for me to actually be doing something. HUGE. You'd think others would take notice and show a little gratitude.
This caused a bit of a setback, but the desire lingered. Opportunities opened up, resources were sufficient, and suddenly I didn't need a lot of things that I thought I did. Blessings came, some by others, and some by a joyful spirit. And somewhere along the line, I began to realize that giving is life- for life is not simply breathing and growing, but it is meaning.
Giving brings meaning. In direct opposition to my desire to lock myself inside my house and pity yours truly, my desire was to forget about myself and look at all the wonders that are people outside my door and across the ocean. Roots deepened, branches spread, and began to intertwine between other branches, in crevices, through windows, and even sometimes into hearts. Unspeakable joy. Giving is life.
After realizing this, the Lord took the time to tap me on the shoulder and whisper- "I'm glad that you discovered the joy of giving, but it was written in my Word all along." What a shock. God's word is truth, it demands giving of yourself so that life may be full. This happens to be the very thing we want, but have the impression that it will hand us the opposite.
"But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does. If anyone among you thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tounge but deceives his own heart, this one's religion is useless. Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this; to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world." - James 1:22-27Giving starts as a baby step and then becomes a lifestyle. It becomes the realization that the result of your giving is not your business. Sometimes we have the luxury of seeing it's effects, and sometimes not. It does not matter, though. A friend of mine kindly shared her story in giving:
"The offering out of ones needs is about giving. Years ago as I watched a gal pacing outside my then business I approached her and asked if I could do anything to help her. I could call someone or give her a seat to rest on. I had only hot dogs in my fridge. She was there the entire day, and never said a word. The police came as I was closing my business took her away. Later she returned to the home across from me asking for me. I was gone but she recalled the long day attempts I made to reach her. I prayed for her. No one else noticed her needs, only loitering. We can only try to help and our Abba Father notices all we do."When the giving becomes a way of life, what we used to think was impossible is not given a second thought, and new and greater challenges beckon our attention. We begin to use creativity, and most exciting of all, faith. This is the time we realize that it has gotten out of our control and there is no where to go but to trust God or turn back. I don't want to turn back. The life I've left I hope to never see again. We can only go forward, so I hold fast onto God's promises of provision and protection. I search for those that have gone ahead of me in their giving journeys and draw strength from testimonies- some only a few years ago and some from the scriptures... and anywhere in between.
Truly, when I began to accept the idea of giving is when I really started living. My prayer is to see the full potential of that seed before I leave this earth, and I hope that the joy I have from the adventure of being a doer of the word would inspire a few others to challenge themselves in this as well.
It's all about giving.
This blog post is an assignment from Compassion International. To check out how you can bless someone with a Christmas gift, click here.