photo by Leah Michelle at Camp Well 2016
Anne Frank said a lot with few words in her quote, “No one has ever become poor from giving.” I always thought I was a natural giver until I heard something that really pushed me to do some self-reflection.
Two years ago I was listening to a sermon about giving. Up until then, I thought I had a natural disposition to give so I didn’t feel that was an area that was a challenge for me. However, in this particular discussion, I was smacked in the face with some truth which was the start to changing my heart.
Have you ever had that happen to you? You’re sitting there listening and it just feels like God’s talking directly to you, maybe even shaking you by the shoulders? It was one of those moments.
The sermon was about being a joyful giver. The pastor said that we tend to give more often when it involves things we don’t want anymore. Those once “had to have” items that evolved into leftovers and things that we’re tired of using. There it was, the hard truth.
That was me. I gave to Goodwill all the time. Someone needed a coat? Sign me up! I’d be happy to give one of mine……as long as it was one I didn’t want or need anymore. I did need to make room in my closet, after all. Who doesn’t? I can kill two birds with one stone! I can clear some closet space, and I can give a coat to someone who needs it. What a deal, right? The message hit me square in the forehead. It was then I realized I was giving out of convenience, not out of generosity.
It was then I realized I was giving out of convenience, not out of generosity.
The point the speaker was making was tied to the condition of our hearts. She shared a personal story about a gorgeous red dress in her closet that she absolutely loved, but she felt the Lord was pushing her to give it away. She never wore it, but she loved it, nonetheless. There were other articles of clothing she’d be happy to part with, but she didn’t want to give that dress away.
This example made me examine my own giving and the condition of my heart. So much so that I began to pray that God would refine me. That He would help me to become a joyful giver, a true giver. Somebody with a generous heart.
Nothing happened immediately. I expected Him to move quickly and big, but He didn’t. He waited.
Some time passed and I heard a similar story where a woman shared about her journey with giving and that she had the “perfect” white blouse. It took her years to find it. It fit perfectly, and it worked with everything. It was her favorite piece of clothing.
She was out and about one day wearing this beautiful white blouse, and a woman complimented her and even went so far to say that she “loved” it. The woman with the blouse felt convicted to give the other woman her blouse, but, as most of us would, she dismissed it.
The woman with the blouse went home, but she couldn’t shake the strong conviction to give the other woman the shirt. She wrestled with the decision and questioned her internal conflict, but she knew what she had to do. The next day, she had the blouse dry cleaned, she wrapped it up, and gave it to the other woman. The lady was so surprised by the gesture that she broke down into tears by the kind gesture.
The story of giving stuck with me and I prayed again that God would refine me, change me, and help me to have a giving heart. Again, crickets. Nothing.
A few weeks later, I was reading and journaling in my bible. I know bible journaling isn’t for everybody, but I love it. I underline things, take notes, dog ear pages and I have post-it notes scattered throughout, I tape notes to pages, and do whatever else my heart pushes me to do to it. It’s a personal place for me to capture thoughts, moments, prayers, and things I’m working through. I’ve spent countless hours in my bible getting it just the way I want it. I’ll give you one guess what happened next!
Out of nowhere, God prompted me to give my bible to somebody. Wait…..WHAT?!? No, not my bible. This is MY bible. Boom, there is was again. “Yes, your bible. Are you wed to your notes or to my word?” WHAT?!? I wrestled with it for a good month. I just didn’t get the “why.” I spent so much time on it. But wouldn’t it be ok if I just bought a new one and gave that one away?
I finally surrendered and dropped it off. The exchange was so weird. If I didn’t do it quick, I was afraid I would back out, so I gave it and left immediately. It was REALLY hard for me to give it up, but I did it. I continued to pray about my giving because I was still having a hard time letting that bible go. That bible was so personal to me. Some time later, God started to nudge me again.
I got this new bag! It was a beautiful bag. A limited edition that only a few got their hands on, and I had one! I loved it. I loved it so much that it didn’t even leave my house. I just looked at it! Finally, after much internal debate, I decided to actually use it. I had a big conference to attend and what better place for my beautiful bag to make it’s debut. Then….. a woman compliments me on it. We had this great exchange about how awesome and rare it was, AND then when I walked away … there it was. A small, quiet voice telling me to give her my bag. NO! I must be losing it. That is just silly. What will I do with all my things? Why would He want me to give her my bag? No, I went through massive hoops to get this bag, but the voice got stronger. I knew, without doubt what I needed to do.
I came up with a plan. I will go home. I will pray about it (just to make sure) and if I was still convicted in the morning, I’d give her the bag. You know what happened. Massive conviction. Why this bag of all the bags I have in my closet?Just then I was reminded of the red dress and the white shirt.
So, I packed my stuff in a different bag and I found the woman the following day at the conference. I’ve never met her before, and we only had that one brief exchange. I handed her the bag, and guess what she did? She did what any reasonable sane person would do. She looked at me like I was absolutely coo-coo crazy. When I told her I was giving her my bag, she didn’t want it. I explained that she would not rip me off of this blessing, I put the bag in her arms, and I took off. I ran away actually. I knew if I didn’t do it fast, I would second-guess myself and keep the bag. Plus it was SUPER awkward. Again, here came the post-internal conflict.
Two weeks later, I went shopping for candles, which I hadn’t bought in months, but it was fall now. I love the smell of cinnamon, pumpkin, cloves and oranges. Fall smells so good. I was on a mission to pick out the perfect candles. I shopped for an hour and picked out the PERFECT candle and the perfect candle holder. I got those bad boys home and they were AWESOME. I stood back admiring them in their new location and BAM.
“Give the candle and the holder to your friend.” WHAT?!? Why would I give her this candle stick and this candle? She is going to think I lost my mind, but I was obedient. I shared with her the background and she told me the day before she had made a decision that they were going to redo her daughter’s bedroom and that the little bird on it was perfect. Okay.
I don’t exactly know where all of this is going, but what I do know is God is answering my prayers to refine my heart. He’s challenging me and seeing if I’ll be obedient in the little things. I know there’s something amazing on the other side.
He’s challenging me and seeing if I’ll be obedient in the little things. I know there’s something amazing on the other side.
If you’re touched by the story of the red dress or the white blouse, try it. God doesn’t always come to us in HUGE ways or BIG VOICES with MASSIVE giving tied to it. Many times it’s thru little whispers and subtle nudges. He lets us know He heard us. He may start by slowing chipping away at your heart rather than a onetime overhaul. What are you willing to do?
Will you listen to that small voice? Will you obey even when it feels ridiculous?