Friday, July 17, 2009

On Giving

I confess it here. Sometimes I have helped others reluctantly. I did it because it seemed like the right thing to do or because I couldn't in good conscience ignore the need, or because I am committed to loving my neighbor. I didn't always like the person I helped. Sometimes I didn't enjoy helping them. Some of my neighbors were unable to appreciate my efforts, or they turned on me in anger and resentment, because they were so unhappy in general with themselves or their lives.

There have been a few times when I have almost abandoned my commitment to love others. Out of sheer exhaustion, deep hurt, or just a conviction that this isn't a good way for me to live, I have withdrawn. The life of giving does not always bring joy -- at least, not immediately. People can view genuine caring as an opportunity, nothing more, and take advantage of those who are givers. Sadly, we need to minister with wisdom and discernment.

This is why, every once in a while, God opens a curtain that is normally drawn across our view and lets us see how our choices influence the future. I think this helps us continue to reach beyond serving our own needs. One such instance happened for me recently.

Over the last two years, I have helped a friend develop the relationship with God that she had always longed for. There were times when this was challenging and tiring for both of us. Most of the credit for her transformation belongs with her, and her Lord. She has worked hard to grow into her new life and been relentless in her pursuit of resolving issues from her past. God has met her efforts with gracious assistance. To my great joy, she "crossed over to the other side," as she put it.

Then during the past six months, she appeared in the midst of our upheaval to help me and to provide for my needs. I could see, with my own eyes, how well and strong she had grown. I could see, too, her desire to give to others.

Recently, she told me that our two years together has been the crucial element which has acted as a catalyst for her inner healing and growth. Now, out of her newfound strength and wholeness, she is planning to make a difference for others in substantial ways. This is a lifelong commitment, born out of maturity and a deeper perspective. It's clear that she is poised to make a large impact on the people around her.

I said to my husband, "Isn't this wonderful?"

Yes, wonderful.

Cherish the moments when you are given a vision of the difference you have made. Let it soak in. Rejoice. This is not the good life. It's the best life.

Your giving reaches out through your world and makes possible what might not have ever been. But that's not all. It reaches beyond your time and space, into the lives of others you will never meet and into the future, into a time after your time, even into eternity.

I believe that nothing we give is ever really lost. God sees and uses it all. Mostly, we have to accept this by faith. But once in a while, we are allowed to see it, if we will.

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