Gifts seem to be given for many different reasons and in many different ways.
They can be large or small. They may be given out of abundance or from what little is had. Some are given out of obligation, to impress or woo, out of joy or pity or frivolity. Some are given with a great deal of thought, and others with hardly any thought at all.
Some come in packages wrapped in pretty paper and tied with ribbons and decorative tags, while some cannot be wrapped in a physical sense at all.
Last winter and over the summer, I read two books which focus on gifts. The first one was One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp, which is about receiving joy through counting blessings and being thankful for even the most minute things in life. This has been a great discipline to practice and can change ones attitude and perspective from being ungrateful to having a heart full of joy. The second book I read was one my husband picked up at the local thrift store titled, Organic God by Margaret Feinberg. The author focuses on different attributes of God in each chapter which she has encountered not only in scripture, but also through experiences in her own life.
While the first book was a valuable source of inspiration for finding joy and grace in the every day, one particular chapter in Feinberg’s book which focused on God’s generosity helped me shift my focus from things in life just being about gifts for me, to the things I do being gifts for others.
Here I find an essential transformation from inward growth to outward action. It has given me a fresh perspective of the impact and importance of my actions and words.
Much like picking out a Christmas gift for someone, I can choose what level of generosity I will give with. Will I skimp? Will I give a little bit because I only have so much energy? Will I only give as much as I feel obligated to give? Will I give with an expectation of gaining something in return?
Or will I give generously and lavishly as God gives?
And how can I apply this to every area of my life?
Because how many gifts have I been given, and how many opportunities to multiply them have I missed out on? Many times it is my own selfishness that hinders me. I choose to focus on something I want more than on what someone else may need at that moment.
Feinberg writes about how her heart began to change when she realized that when she held back gifts from others, she was really holding back herself from seeing and receiving God’s gifts in her own life. She writes, “At times I foolishly hold back that which should be freely given, or I am tempted to give for the wrong reasons, but slowly I’m finding more joy in generosity…God doesn’t just want me to give until it hurts, but rather to give until it feels good. If I wait until I am in the mood to give, it might be awhile. If I go ahead and give out of obedience or in response to a need, joy usually follows.” (pg. 134)
These following few lines resonate so deeply within me, that I see no reason to rewrite them in my own words. I have seen this truth in my own life, and my greatest hope for the year to come is to give more fully without expecting anything in return, live more boldly, and adopt the values of God’s kingdom.
“When we give freely, we become more free ourselves. We become less attached to the things of this world and more attached to the world to come. We make the transition from having an inward focus to having an outward one, and in the process we reflect the radiance of our Creator.” (pg. 135)
God is inviting us to be a reflection of His grace and generosity in this world. It might be just in our own homes or at our place of work, but how can we hold back what we have been so generously showered with? How can we question whether we have enough to give, when we have all been blessed with something? Maybe it isn’t always a material possession, but something deeper from within us. And maybe if we don’t feel like we have something to give, is there something to humbly and graciously receive?
How will you choose to respond to those around you this year?
Further reading and sources:
One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp
also check out her blog, A Holy Experience, for more inspiration.
Feinberg, Margaret (2007) the organic God
Zondervan MI:Grand Rapid