Tuesday, March 23, 2010

When You Have Little to Give

Think about this question,“When I’m running on empty physically, emotionally, spiritually, or financially, can I still be generous?” My tendency is to push the default button and withdraw from others in need to tend to my own problems and sense of misery. However, I’ve been learning from a couple people in my life that consistently model a life of generosity in the midst of facing serious life issues of their own. They are teaching me a ton. \

Debbie Jo is someone I’ve served in ministry with for over two decades. She’s been faithful for many years in providing beautiful opportunities of spiritual growth for the women at ABC. She works diligently in planning enriching women’s events that touch hundreds of lives. And, she’ll often be found sitting quietly with a woman in life crisis, giving her wisdom and counsel from God’s Word. She’s a very attentive listener and extraordinarily wise. What most people may not know about Debbie Jo is that she has had a slow progressing type of Multiple Sclerosis for over 10 years. This disease often leaves her with incredible fatigue and debilitating pain. However, the way she carries herself, you’d never know it. Recently, I was able to listen to her tell her life story and when she got to the part about MS, she said something that struck a deep cord with me. She said, “I’ve learned to embrace MS. MS has been one of the best things for me. It’s given me a measure of compassion I would have never had without it.” Now... that is not a normal thing to say, I thought.

Doug is a fellow elder and one of our small groups pastors at ABC. Recently, he and I have been working together on a care situation involving some ABC families. This has been a very time consuming and tiring ordeal in which God has shown himself in some incredible ways. However, this situation isn’t the only difficult thing in Doug’s life. He is facing some heavy financial issues stemming from a business that went south in the economic downturn of the recent past. He is also caring for his father with rapidly failing health. While we were working on this care situation, Doug’s dad fell and broke his hip. Doug was needed to lead his family (mom and sisters) to make some difficult decisions on behalf of the care of his dad. These decisions included nursing care, hospice, and the “no heroic measures” discussion. Gut-wrenching stuff for any son. What amazed me most as I journeyed with Doug, was his resolve to stay involved with the care of people at ABC while he faced his personal issues. He could have easily withdrawn from others to focus on his own serious matters. At one point he said, “Phil, this is therapy for me.” What he was saying was, “Helping others gives me strength to face my own issues.” Now... that is not a normal thing to say, I thought.

That must be why Paul calls this the “grace of giving.” Giving when you have little to give is grace, or a gift from God. And he wants us all to experience it.