The smallest parable of humankindness (or Divine-kindness), the gift, tumbles us into humility as easily as a wrestler throws an unsuspecting opponent onto the map.
Henry Nouwen in his book Creative Ministry counsels ministers to take a break sometimes from the role of gift-giver (time, attention, instruction, aid) so the recipients themselves can taste the sweet joy of giving. “It is more blessed to give than receive” — once we learn that lesson, we must then learn to wean ourselves from the desire to be needed, to be thesole recipient of the joy of giving.
I find God’s provision, while sweet, also to be humiliating. Nothing hammers home my inadequacy like being given that which I could not produce for myself (or in myself).
Case in point: The upper school’s Dominican Republic trip looms large on the horizon. Jack & I have been busy with preparations for weeks now, swimming through a sea of housing, financial, medical, and travel details. School trips are a delightful burden, but the weight is real. Without foresight, wisdom, and a good deal of planning, the trip would lose its efficiency as a fantastic learning experience for the 11 students and become instead a trial.
For weeks now I’ve been concerned that we have been unable to obtain donations of the necessary antibiotics and other meds that Dr D. will need for his clinic work in Santiago. The rest of us will spend the bulk of our time ministering in other ways, but Tim needs those meds to do his work – probably the most important ‘real’ help we’re bringing to the church in that city. But money is tight; businesses have less money to donate; new laws make it harder for people to donate medicines; we lacked the needed personal contacts to get the meds.
Friday night, someone called me to say they had spoken with a business associate and decided to split the cost of a large supply of the needed medicines for the trip.
This person simply did it — with one stroke, they removed our last, large barrier to effective work it the DR next week…. the hurdle I had no way to clear. And they have been generous to the trip in other ways.
I blushed on my end of the phone. I don’t know how much the drugs cost, but I figure they weren’t cheap. Sure, professionals can take a tax write-off for stuff like this, but the reality hit home: God’s work is always acommunal effort. The Body as a whole is charged with healing the sick, wrapping the wounds, pulling people toward reconciliation, showing compassion.
Gifts are microcosmic. They mutely witness to the foundational and humbling truth of the Gospel that “all things come from Thee, and from Thine own supply have we given Thee” (1 Chronicles 29:14). Glory to His name.
Everything is HIS, whether ‘the holding on or the letting go’ (“Come What May“).
[PS. If you want to read about the actual trip, see my Xanga posts.]