Friday, March 7, 2014
“The point is this: the one who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and the one who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each of you must give as you have made up your mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that by always having enough of everything, you may share abundantly in every good work.” (2 Corinthians 9:6-9)
Generosity feels like it should be simple but usually isn’t. Too often when giving or receiving, I question the giver’s motives, the receiver's reaction, the appropriateness of the gift, the system of oppression that the gift might be engaging in (classism, racism, sexism, etc), etc. Guilt, mistrust, anger, offense, fear, and embarrassment are all feelings that often accompany generosity.
Ben and I love hosting people at our house. We love bringing people together and creating a space for connection and fellowship. I love cooking for people and will often have food (often too much!) for whoever is visiting. It is a ministry that I feel called to to feed people; to create space for community; to serve. Usually, after a meal has been shared or as folks are preparing to go, I retreat into the kitchen to clean up. Its a ritual of closing the space, grounding my energy, and feeling complete. More than once, male friends of ours have come into the kitchen and offered to help. When I wave them off and tell them I will take care of it, I can see the uncomfort they feel letting a woman do traditionally woman things. Guilt and uncertainty bubble up and I just want to give them a hug and say “Its OK, really! This is what I am called to do and I love it.”
When receiving gifts though, my own feelings of guilt, unworthiness, and embarrassment bubble up just the same. I often freeze up, awkwardly smile, and say “Thank You” way too much. I want to express the outpouring of gratitude that I am feeling on the inside but I don’t know what is appropriate so I do nothing. Ben and I received a gift last weekend that was beautiful and meaningful beyond belief. Ben was able to convey his feelings way better than me in that case, which reminded me of my own work in this area.
I think in general its easier for me to give than to receive, even in the case of God’s blessings. The passage from 2 Corinthians above is as much of a promise as it is a warning; though God’s call for me to give bountifully is stronger than my fear of not being a gracious recipient.
Dear God, help me live up to your call to generosity and graciousness. Walk with me as I learn that I deserve to have enough of everything and share abundantly in your good work. Inspire me to give bountifully to others and speak to the complexity of generosity that our society and world has developed. Remind me that in our mistakes there are learnings and growth. Help me be generous and gracious to myself as well as others.