Friday, December 14, 2012

Real Giving

My father gave my shoulder a pat and explained what he did to my car this time. I gave a weak smile, said thanks, and proceeded to pack up the car. Mom noticed the expression on my face; she knows my temperament well.

"Don't be mad that he helps you. He loves you."

I nodded my head and explained how tired I was, but deep down I knew I was having trouble receiving again. It has always been a challenge for me. Maybe it's because of pride. I'm well into my 30's and my parents still save the day more often than I'd like to admit. Maybe it's that I could never believe that someone helped me out of simply loving me. I've often thought there might be a sense of obligation or ulterior motive. I'm speaking from raw thoughts here- I'm not really that likable.

For some reason, my mother's comment hit me different than usual. My father loves me. I thought of the love I have for my own children- a love that is so strong I can't go a day without smothering them with kisses and "I love you's". I would mess up schedules, break my budgets, lose sleep over, and put myself in various discomforts for anything that would improve their lives. It is possible that my own parents feel the same way toward me, I suppose.

I don't have to be likable, and I don't need to deserve it. They just like loving me.

More than dozens of times, I have received with half hearted thanksgiving, only to realize the thought behind the gift or the sacrifice involved after the fact. It is then that I am overwhelmed with gratitude yet unable to express it or return favors, and I am nothing but humbled.

My father is great, but my Father is far more loving, compassionate, and generous than any human could be.

I have to admit, it is more than I can wrap my mind around.

Dealing with the concept of real giving during Christmas is difficult because as much as I love tradition, some tradition ruins purpose. Giving and receiving gifts for the sake of the season of giving are, at times, not really giving at all. As entitlement plagues our nation, my heart has hardened a little at the flippant phrases cute customs tossed around in such a time as Christmas. Children are taught to be "good" in order to feed their greed. Neighbors pay large sums of money to hang white lights that match everyon'e in the neighborhood. People complain about the Christmas shopping they have to do in order to give. Those in search of a heart warming story throw a few coins in a homeless man's cup, and sing their own praises.

We can't deny it, it's true.

But in the midst of it all, real giving may be seen if you search for it. Or, it may be right in front of you and you may never know it. This is because real giving stems from real love, which is so accurately described in 1 Corinthians 13:

Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become a sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.
Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek it's own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away.
For we know in part and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away. When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.

And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
Real giving may be caught in the act, but it's intentions are not meant to be seen. Real giving may look false, but the purest of intentions are the force behind it. No one really knows but God and possibly the giver.

I believe that God is so great that any form of giving can be a blessing. I have given for many reasons, like as a child when it was mandatory. Admittedly, there have been times of giving in order to look good, and times where I had a smile on my face while kicking and screaming inside.

I have given out of faith, knowing that it was an act of submission to God's perfect plan. I don't know how it was received, but my blessings were numerous. I have given out of hope, that kindness might make some one's life better. This kind of giving is also beneficial for the giver.

But the gift from love is simply supernatural. It hurts the giver, it tries her patience, it does not make sense. It may cause doubt over time, and it shows no trace of self interest. It is stubborn and certainly not logical. It takes faith, and it takes hope, but the driving force is love.

This love, the purest form of giving, only can come through the power of God Himself. He loves the unlovable and gives grace to the unworthy. He showers blessings on those that are least likely to give back.

And He uses us to do it, which in itself, is a gift of love.

This blog post is an assignment from Compassion International. To check out how you can bless someone in need with a Christmas gift, click here.

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