One of my favorite family pics of almost all of us a few years ago!

Monday, December 8, 2014

My Story: Why Giving Freely is Ultimately a Test of my Trust

Preface: This past week, I posted 17 Counter-Intuitive Choices for Believers that will Vastly Improve Your Quality of Life.  Of course, I have stories to go with each lesson I am learning, but so far, they are only written in my head.  Yesterday, I couldn't help but write my lesson of the day - the truth in all its glory! Turns out, it really connects to three choices.  

Choose to give generously and freely, especially when you think that you have less than you need.  

Choose to be transparent and real and authentic and vulnerable, trusting that the people who matter will love you anyway. (So if telling you my actual thoughts doesn't make me vulnerable to critique, then I'm not sure what will!)

Choose self-control, especially when you are tempted. (Like, you know, when you are tempted to keep something that doesn't really belong to you ... or something like that... maybe!)

My Story: Why Giving Freely is Ultimately Test 
of my Ability to Trust
By Anna Giattina Lee
December 8, 2014

Today is one of those days when I had to make a choice to trust. 

I have this personal rule about giving at church. Regardless of what my husband gives on behalf of our family, for the past few years I have had this little ritual at church of looking in every nook and cranny of my purse, my briefcase and on my person and literally giving every last cent.  Mindful of that verse about bragging about giving, I find it’s generally wise to keep it a private thing – except to my husband, and then only in relation to getting excited with him about God’s provision. 

It’s not like it is a huge sum of money. I give because I want to DO something specific to demonstrate to myself that I am trusting God’s provision.  Sometimes, a diligent search produces nothing. Not a single penny. Sometimes, I can muster up a few dollars and some change. 

Other days, like today, I have been to the bank to get cash to pay to get into my son’s basketball game.  I was in a small town and my bank wasn’t there, so I had to go to another bank and pay a $3 fee to withdraw.  Paying a fee goes completely against my penny pinching ways –but it was a necessity (because of my poor planning – but still….)   In order to make it worth my $3, I got out $100 – forgetting that the next day was Sunday. 

So, this morning before church I was looking for money my parents had given our children to give away before Christmas (another great story) and I ran across the money I had stashed in my purse from yesterday.  My first thought was nothing gracious or noble.  Nope.  Not me. What did I think?  “Oh crap, now I have to give it all away.  That wasn’t my plan!” Even typing this I feel like an idiot for thinking that.  Like the money was mine anyway. 

Anyway, it didn’t end there.  I wasn’t wise enough to just obey and comply with my own dang rule.  No, I started thinking about how I could spend a good chunk of it on the stuff we “needed” before we got to church.  Major shame here.  I stopped at the corner store (a treat) and found myself spending $2 on soft drinks for the kids. 

Really?  Are you freakin’ kidding me?  Soft drinks? Did I really just spend $2 on four soft drinks - something that is so rare that the kids wonder if I’m dying or something?  So sorry God.  I’m lame. And I know it.

But there is more.  Handing out soft drinks to four shocked children, we head to our usual Sunday morning bagel stop.  A few times a month we get this treat on the way to church -- usually just a $13 expense for two meals for the entire family.  No cream cheese.  No drinks.  Just straight bagel.

But what do I think? “Hmmm..  Maybe i should go ahead and get an extra pack and freeze one for later.  I have the cash……”

Really God?  Why do I fight you on everything?  How can I be so thick headed?  Thankfully, by the time I get to the front of the line I have convinced myself that I’ve already spent too much time arguing with myself and I don’t feel one bit better.  I know that I am choosing to rely on myself and not to trust God to meet my needs - but I don't seem to want to hand over control. 

So I ordered our usual frugal pack.  And asked for 3 glasses of water.

One tiny little success – but it wasn’t over yet. 

Aldi is our usual after church stop.  By now I was convincing myself that I needed to put up or shut up.  All I needed was a quarter for a basket at Aldi  - I would give away the rest.  

My mind immediately remembers all the times I have been to Aldi with not a single penny in cash and someone has given me their cart without me having to ask.  

I argue with myself for another few seconds, but ultimately, I leave the quarter in the bottom of the cup holder because it is covered in some sticky substance that I now have all over my hands. I wonder to myself if this is a practical matter or my attempt to hold onto 25 cents worth of control?

So, I walk into church and the person who greets me is a woman who lost her husband to cancer this year.  It is her first Christmas without him.  We connect on our shared experience and loss. 

Twenty feet away I see a close friend who is far younger than me, but has always been a wise and faithful servant and prayer warrior and I think, “Oh! You want me to give the money to this family.  Okay.  That’s good with me.”  As if my agreement is a prerequisite.   

I wait for an opportunity to secretly slip the money in the front of this person’s sweatshirt pocket – but he’s a guy and I think better of that plan!  Walking up, all I say is, “I don’t know why, but this is for you.”  

He glances at his closed hand, which is now in his pocket and gives me a quick smile matter-of-factly with a slight amount of shock, “Well, okay.  I’ll take it.”

He doesn't say, “Thank you.”

Nothing like, “Wow, I can’t take your money.  You need this too.”

Nothing, except a smile and a hug, where he says “Praise God” and we part ways. 

At that moment, my heart was filled with joy.  Because we both understood that the money wasn’t mine.  Never was.  And my only job was to be the physical body that passed it along to the person who God wanted to have it.  At that moment, all the pieces fit together.  It all made sense.  And I knew – once again – that God not only provides me with what I need, but he lavishes me with bagels and soft drinks and a home and a vehicle and things far beyond any basic need. 

Once again, obedience brought me joy – even though it went against every grain of flesh in me.  Why do I have to keep learning this lesson over and over again?

Oh, and does anyone need a quarter? I wiped the sticky stuff off of it.

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