I sing for joy because of what you have done.
O Lord, what great works you do!
And how deep are your thoughts. –Psalm 92:4-5 (New Living Translation)
Thanksgiving. A time of food. A time of family. A time of celebrating. I haven’t felt much like celebrating this year. I’ve lost sight of the multitude of blessings that my life holds, and I’ve grown cynical and skeptical in this wonder-filled life. So this week, and throughout the rest of the year, I want to remember the joy and anticipation of giving. I want to remember the goodness of God.
When I think of the poverty that surrounds me, I realize just how closed my heart has become. Instead of my heart breaking for those who live in want, I find myself judging them …. Why do they have smart phones? Why do they have cable? Why don’t they act more humble? Someone should teach them about budgeting and finances so they don’t always ask for handouts. Yeah, it’s ugly in my heart. I begin to see where the true poverty lies. Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Aware of my heart’s poverty, I am humbled and see physically poor people the way I believe God sees them–with kindness, compassion, mercy, grace. I begin to see the kingdom of heaven open before me and broaden my perspective. If someone is hungry, it’s not kind to judge hard-heartedly how they spent their money. If someone can’t pay the heating bill, it’s not compassionate to take that moment to explain how to set financial priorities and goals. Or worse. To think they deserve the lesson of hunger or coldness. My heart grows a little colder when I look at people in the shadow of prejudice and privilege. And yes, I hear the voices telling me that we must live in balance. We can’t just fix every person’s problems. They need to learn. Don’t forget ‘tough love.’ All of that is true; however, in order for my heart to see and experience God in this season, I need to err on the side of empathy and humility.
So, this week, I’m humbled that I believe my blessings are deserved and another’s depravity is their own making. In breaking that shameful thinking, I chose to do some random, anonymous acts of kindness. I gave when I thought someone was undeserving. I gave when I didn’t want to sacrifice. I gave when I wanted to turn the other way. Not all my giving was financial. I gave time, patience, and empathy too–never letting on how poor I felt to offer anything. I began to see a different view from the miserly perspective that held my heart for so long this year. I began to see hope … wonder … God.
I wish I could tell you that I feel all giddy with anticipation. I don’t. But, I see a flicker of joy coming. Because in empathizing with the poverty around me, I see the goodness and faithfulness of God to whom I’ve devoted myself. In offering companionship to a lonely person, I see the relationships that I enjoy with my children and husband. In giving a few dollars to a family so they can celebrate Thanksgiving, I see God’s provision around my own table.
How have I wanted others to treat me while in the throws of my angst? Have I wanted instruction? Have I welcomed advice? Honestly, only from those who first treated me with compassion and tenderness. I thank God for those people. May we all begin to treat others with the grace and mercy we, ourselves, wish others would offer us. The more we do, the more we understand God expresses great works and deep thoughts through us–we get to be the vessel of the Lord’s work in this world! I encourage each of us to look for ways to rejoice in God through the rest of the year–whether by giving or allowing someone to give in our lives. If we begin to live with this perspective, we will express a life of thankfulness!
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