If you know my children, you know that my oldest child is spirited. Lively. Animated. At times his impulsivity overrides his conscious and he can be intrusive. Parenting him can be difficult. We both like to be in charge, and there are hard days. And subsequently, he has taught me infinite lessons about mothering, about patience, about expectations, about pride, about life.
And for every single ounce of energy that is in his body, there is every bit as much a generous spirit. It’s a side of him that most don’t see. We spend hours picking out gifts for him to give cousins/teachers/friends. This Christmas season, his generous spirit blessed me so much, moved me to tears, and convicted me of my overwhelmingly selfish nature.
This summer, I felt God speaking to my spirit to give more freely my time, energy, and resources. I like to keep those things for myself, thank you very much. But in prayer, in scripture, in my times of quiet, ‘giving yourself’ just kept surfacing. Like Romans 1 all over my spirit. Like the Parable of the Good Samaritan all up in my face.
But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’
About eight months ago I met a representative of World Relief at a community prayer breakfast. I was there for eggs and sausage, he was there trying to engage the church to stand for the vulnerable. I mean…. I took his card and put it in my console, where I promptly forgot about it. And then in preparing for a sociology lecture several months later, something in my notes about poverty reminded me about this organization, which, in their words:
‘We believe God has equipped the church – the most diverse social network on the planet – to be at the center of these stories, leveraging time, energy and resources to join the vulnerable in their time of need. We practice principles of transformational development to empower local churches in the United States and around the world so they can serve the vulnerable in their communities. With initiatives in education, health, child development, agriculture, food security, anti-trafficking, immigrant services, micro-enterprise, disaster response and refugee resettlement, we work holistically with the local church to stand for the sick, the widow, the orphan, the alien, the displaced, the devastated, the marginalized, and the disenfranchised.’
So after scouring their website, drooling over them being Jesus, and trying to reconcile the stirring in my spirit, I decided to pitch the idea to my Sunday School class about getting involved with refugee resettlement. They were all over it. Like willing to give up days off, money, stuff, time, and just whatever. These people are legit. So we went through the orientation and the background checks. The day we went to finalize everything we received notice that our family would be here in 12 days. We had to furnish an apartment from scratch and come up with $1000. And we had exactly zero dollars, zero pieces of furniture, and zero time. It was the week of Thanksgiving.
I wish I could put the entire text thread from our class on here. They were rock stars. Some would send “I’ll take care of a couch.” Others would make Snoop Dogg references (Melissa Partin). Others would give lengthy descriptions of what they would send (also Melissa Partin). Long text short…we had a fully furnished apartment within 3 days, except a dining room table and dresser. So I put out a request on Facebook. And then we had a table, and a dresser, and a car, and another car, and then someone randomly gave me $100 ‘for whatever’…. it went on like that. Some kids even gave up their DS. I eventually had to refer people out….because we were full to overflowing…
Nolan, upon seeing that their son had no toys, began donating his own. Every time we have gone to visit the family, Nolan has brought something from his own room to give to them. Every day, he has asked to spend time with him. He has helped their son with his English homework. He has generously and genuinely given of himself, and never complained. He considers it joy. His generous spirit is a constant reminder to me to let go of that to which I cling so tightly. My space. My things. My time. My money. My energy. Myself.
‘Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him.’
That line grips me. Sears my spirit. Is etched in my soul and is propelling me to a kind of service that goes further than standing on the serving side of a soup kitchen line, the table serving as the great chasm between us and them. Soup lines are wonderful. Needed. But if there is no supping together when the dinner is served, I think we have missed the point. I think the kind of giving the Bible speaks of is…all of it. A living sacrifice. The kind that is uncomfortable, inconvenient, costly, and selfless. The kind that honestly enters into the lives of those around us. The kind that reforms and reshapes us in the process.
When Nolan gave their son his prized guitar, his smile was more than I could bear. Nolan’s smile. He was so incredibly genuine in his generosity. The lump in my throat was so huge, I couldn’t speak. Lord, that I could be that generous. Lord, that I could give that freely. Lord, that I would be a living sacrifice, holding nothing back from you. Lord, that my heart would be like that of a child, that I might enter your kingdom (Matthew 18:3).
And a little child shall lead them…