I love to give. It's easy for me.
I'm not a saint, it's just that there's instant gratification to giving. Not because of the response but because it feels so great to take from what is mine and contribute it somewhere else. To do something that's not about me. That is worth doing simply because it's worth doing and I am able to do it. Freely!
Not just material things. It could be time and talent, patience and compassion, grace and mercy, prayer.
I don't think I give because it makes me feel good. I think I give because there is a transactional gratitude in doing so. I'm here, I'm alive, and I'm grateful to the One who made it so. So if I become aware of a need, I can choose to (I don't always) do something about it. The act feels good in itself, so feeling good about doing it is an added bonus.
I also love the fact that giving is exclusively relational. There is no giving without relationship (even if it's just a bubble bath and the relationship is with myself.)
Giving is something that can only be chosen. It's like love. You can only give if you want to. Giving when you've been asked is quite safe, there's a structure in place. Giving of your own volition is more risky but your heart may desire to give it anyway. And there is still blessing in the giving no matter how it's received.
What is far trickier is receiving. UGH! Much much harder. How much I would rather give. So much more under my control, so much less vulnerable. But, through my marriage, the Lord showed me something crucial about receiving.
When I was married, we were often desperately in need of money. This was a new experience for me. I had been materially comfortable all my life, I had never had to wonder where I would live or what I would eat. Then all of that changed, and it was made even more intense by the fact I'd become a mother.
Formerly, I had loved being on the prayer chain at our church to provide meals for new moms or a family in need. I loved being able to help. But suddenly here I was, in desperate need myself, over a lo-o-ong period of time.
Friends and family were amazing. Costco boxes of diapers and bags of food appeared on our doorstep. Envelopes of cash addressed to me were pushed through our door or placed under my plate at lunch. One Christmas a friend gave us a tree, another friend sent their kids through the doggy door to put presents underneath it and another drove across town on Christmas Eve to hide a toy train table under a tarpaulin on the back porch from Santa.
I taught a bible study to a group of amazing older women and regularly, for several of those years, I would arrive home after class to find grocery gift cards and cash had been secretly slipped into every pocket imaginable in my purse.
I would weep and weep and weep with gratitude. What could I possibly offer in return? And what would we have done without all that practical love and support?
Even so, the need to receive and not be able to give back all the time was painful. It was not what I would have chosen.
Needing to receive, stripped away my pride, my sense of entitlement, and my self-sufficiency. It was agony. All my defences were gone, I was exposed and it was like having my skin stripped off leaving me naked. Really naked.
However, God revealed something truly invaluable to me through that season. That by receiving help, I was not doing nothing. My (enforced!) humility and gratitude were in fact giving to our givers in return, by allowing them to give. And the relationships that were forged through that vulnerability are extraordinary.
"It's all about grace in receiving," the Lord said to me one day.
Grace in receiving requires humility, and so the gratitude is all the sweeter for it.
There is a gift to being in need. You're not just a big fat loser. It may be you who's in need today - but it might be me tomorrow! The gift of being in need is that you can give someone else the gift of being able to help you. It's a gift to be needed, to be known.
So let people love you. Your time will come to be on the less vulnerable side of giving. But in the meantime? Give by how you receive.