At the beginning of each year, I ask God for something. Last year, profoundly affected by two different films, my request was more adventurous, more open-ended, more…dangerous. I asked him to teach me about selfless love. I wanted to learn what it meant to give to the point of sacrifice, to not only think in terms of what I could afford to give, but instead to consider what the other person needed. To give like Jesus gave.
I felt afraid, knowing it would be painful to give selflessly. I wondered if I would be able to do it—if I’d be able to look sacrifice in the face and not shrink back. Also, I felt a kind of curiosity about how God would teach me this lesson. Would it be a gentle crescendo of tasks, one more difficult than the next? Or would it be like the Inuit mothers, tossing their babies in the icy water with a do or die mentality?
And then I waited, the request hovering in the corners of my mind, as the year rolled on.
I was still waiting to learn how to give when Logan was given a fulfilling and challenging job at a welcoming church.
I was still waiting to learn how to give when we found my dream house, a yellow charmer with a barn in back.
I was still waiting to learn how to give when I was depressed, and experienced the unflinching grace of God in the face of my stark need.
I was still waiting to learn how to give when my family was invited into a vibrant small group, a collection of men, women and children who know the meaning of generosity, prayer, good humor, and genuine concern.
I was still waiting to learn how to give when God consistently and quickly met every financial need we faced, sometimes with nearly unbelievable precision.
I waited and waited to learn how to give. The opportunities rarely came. But when they did, I was so full to overflowing that instead of a feeling of emptying, it felt more like skimming off the top. Like I could never give more than I had been given, like I had to give in order to rid myself of the excess. Like giving was part of it all.
Remembering the woman who washed Jesus’ feet with her tears, the one who “loved much because she had been given much,” I think that possibly one could “give much because one has received much." If I could understand—I mean truly comprehend—the self-giving love of my God for me, then there would be a nearly infinite capacity for service. If he is the source, the river would not run dry.
And this year, 2014, has given me a taste of this surging, pounding, deep and limitless river, the generosity of God to me.
(Photo by Maria Casteel)