In college I wrote out a Bible verse in calligraphy and mailed it to a friend attending a college on the other side of the country. Since she was Muslim, I was shocked when I came to visit 6 months later and found it hanging on her dorm wall, right above her bed. When I walked into her room, fresh off the plane, she reached up and touched it. “Thank you for sending me this,” she said, “I love it. It reminds me just how generous God is.”
The verse was Matthew 6:26-30.
“Look at the birds in the sky; they do not sow or reap, they gather nothing into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are not you more important than they? Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your life-span? Why are you anxious about clothes? Learn from the way the wild flowers grow. They do not work or spin. But I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was clothed like one of them. If God so clothes the grass of the field, which grows today and is thrown into the oven tomorrow, will he not much more provide for you?”
I can’t for the life of me remember what provoked me to write out and send this verse to my friend all those years ago, or what exactly led her to cherish it. I also don’t know why I never hung something so beautiful above my own bed in college. But I vividly remember that piece of paper hanging there, and her hand gently touching it.
I stumbled onto this very verse this week in the Waiting in the Word Advent study. Every verse packs a bunch if you give it a chance to speak, but reading this one was like greeting a dear friend. Even though I am now divided from my college friend by languages, religions, lifestyles and oceans, she was so profoundly right. Our God is a generous God. He is a God that feeds the birds and dresses the flowers. He loves and cherishes all things. And this is the message, the message of generosity, that I want to be greeted with every morning.
Because, let’s be honest, most mornings I wake up feeling far less than generous.
I didn’t get enough sleep, I don’t have enough time, I can’t help everyone at once, we don’t have enough milk, I don’t have enough patience, I can’t remember everything, I never get to do what I want to do…
In my tiny world, scarcity always wins out over generosity.
And here we are, in Advent.
I know that Christmas is intended to be the season of generosity and giving but as the days of December tick down I being to feel that everything is in shortage. My time, my patience, my resources. My husband and I sat together and went through the November expenses a few nights ago and when all the numbers are there, accounted for and in their correct columns, I felt my chest tighten. I spent how much on groceries? Our credit card bill is what? How is our life so expensive? I thought we were living simply….
And a sense of scarcity consumes me. I want to be generous. I want to tithe and then some. I want to give until it hurts and then fall confidently back into the arms on my loving God.
But then the “what-if’s” creep in. What if we need to replace the furnace, or if there is complication with the baby? What is a car dies or we have to move? What if my husband looses his job or we need to help out a family member in crisis?
All of the possible disasters of the future make today’s blessings look miserably small.
And then there is that annoying verse right in the middle: Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your life-span?
Ah, worrying. My old friend and constant companion.
Of course greed and worrying are linked. My lack of generosity is not fueled by selfishness but by fear.
And yet, what do I have to fear? My God feeds even the birds and richly dresses the wild flowers. How much more will He do for me?
So I wrote out these verses for the second time this week. This time for me to hang somewhere and read often. Just like the first time, I was swallowed up in the beautiful summery feel of these words, the sensation that I was with Christ, sitting in an open meadow, birds in the sky cheerfully chirping and wild flowers bending in the breeze all around us. He spoke and the peace of that scene settled into my soul. With confidence I heard the truth. The truth that my life is full of abundance, not scarcity, and that I should respond with generosity.
That I should respond with generosity.