Giving & Generosity 

In her hand she holds the distaff
    and grasps the spindle with her fingers.
 She opens her arms to the poor
    and extends her hands to the needy.
When it snows, she has no fear for her household;
    for all of them are clothed in scarlet.

Proverbs 31: 19-21

The woman who balances the art of giving and generosity with wisdom is one of a kind.  It truly is an art form.  As women, we tend to be nurturers, birthers, caretakers, and full of compassion.  We see a need, and we typically want to meet it. It’s the innate form of love that women possess.  That love can be broken or rusted if it comes up against bullies or past woundedness, but deep down it remains.  It’s easy to attain a hard heart if something has happened to us that is hurtful, but the woman who learns how to allow her heart room for healthy expression will always end up growing deeper places of fellowship with God than she ever imagined.

This was part of my story.  Learning the ebb and flow of generosity and asking God to reveal His heart of giving to me in a deeper and more profound way.  

It seems there are levels to giving.  There can be a practical gift which usually fills a logistical need, and this typically carries kindness with it that encourages another person, but there is also a sense of generosity that goes deeper than that practical need. When we not only carry a physical form of giving but we also do the greater work of carrying the burden, we turn our compassion into communion.  When we carry another’s heart with us, or even do the work of nurturing our own hearts where burdens once were, then we take the practical gift to a much more sacred space.  It now has Spirit with it, and when we give from that place of wholeness, we can truly transform our lives and our communities.

I love nurses. I have more than several friends who have set their own comfort aside in order to steward the care of others in this capacity of caregiving, either in their homes or in the workplace.  Nurses do hard work.  They carry that middle ground between orders and compassion, managing their skillsets and their time with nurture and reality. It’s a humble position to set aside spotlight and to serve instead, administer medicine, help with bathroom breaks, and hold people’s pain.  It is precious and immensely valuable.  For many of those nurses, even though trained practically on how to give in this type of situation, the training doesn’t seem to be enough to officially prepare them for the reality of what it is to actually carry another person.  And that’s where this deeper sense of burden-bearing and also communion arrives.  It is a spiritual call, one of surrender and grace.

It’s when we allow ourselves into the actual presence of the broken places, and we listen to stories, and we watch tears fall, and our tears start to fall in the process that we actually start to understand true giving and community.  It’s when we’re providing for or wiping up another person’s sickness that we gain a small perspective of what it’s like to nurse another human’s pain or iniquity.  But it’s also in this divine exchange when the burden doesn’t seem like a burden anymore as we watch grief become holy and letting go become faith and holding on become hope. This burden instead becomes a privilege; there is a deeper sense of meaning and purpose to our lives here.  This is the reality of the human condition and the beauty of God’s restoration. We all were born divine yet fallen, and we’re all on our way back to redemption, holiness, and fullness; we all gather ourselves under these same God-given emotions and also the physical limitations that our bodies present.  But it’s within these human places where true giving and generosity become available through Jesus; it’s in the healing of ourselves and in the understanding of God’s grace in creating the way to restore humanity. He is the Giver, and He is the Healer, and He longs to be in community and connection with the people He created, no matter where the injury or sickness or hurt came from and no matter what the outcome entails.

It’s what this Proverbs 31 woman seemed to have grasped, this understanding of another’s pain, shame, and brokenness with the grace to move forward in redeeming it with care and honor.  Her hands take each spindle in course, studying the very work in which she is to contribute.  Then her arms open, not just a little, but widely in order to stretch herself out to the poor and needy.  This is not a matter of flattery or pride, this is the grace of a shared burden.  We know this to be true because as it becomes cold outside, her family is still perfectly covered.  This means her integrity is upright, and her faith and work is legitimate.

In order to have authentic compassion, we must have travailed through suffering.  It just seems to be the way it works; this is who Jesus is.  We can only truly share a burden when we actually experience the burden. Until we’ve experienced it, it doesn’t quite turn fully into compassion. Jesus did not only rise from the dead to give life, but He died in our place first.  It was a long, grueling death filled with mockery, bitterness, and false judgements.  He paid the price, and then He also never stayed down.  We have the gift of reconciling to His life but only through His death first.  If we don’t walk through the suffering, our gifts often lack the sustenance that this salvation and sacrifice offer us.

As a wife and as a mother, we are givers.  We support, we help, we nurture, and we encounter.  We put ourselves on the back burner in order to provide these elements at times.  It can be painful to feel unseen and unheard, misunderstood and even possibly neglected. This happens, and it’s a reality. For some it’s much deeper than for others.  The wounds of the soul can take all kinds of shapes and sizes, forms of expression and forms of healing.  We lay down our lives to serve our husbands with our bodies, to also serve our children with our bodies, and to equally serve with our emotions and with our words. 

And when those ways have had their place, we often fill up again through prayer so we can also go out into the world and serve our communities at times. This is hard work.  This does not look like a Pottery Barn catalog all the time, as much as I love to browse through those. So if we want to be authentic in this day and in this culture, our giving has to come inside to outside, otherwise the people who are most valuable to us are often the people who end up picking up the slack. This is where we’ve seen the world and also the Church go astray.  Our personal health, as well as the family unit, has often been put behind ministry. We’ve been told to serve the world, to put ourselves second, to be everything to everyone.  And in many ways, there has been so much error in that process.  

There is a gentleness and a humility in putting ourselves second in order to lift someone up, yes.  This is a form of burden-bearing.  But more effective, is picking up someone when we’re already full.  There is dignity in being prepared for serving instead of serving prematurely.  Jesus spent only 3 of his 33 years in actual, full-time ministry.  And even then, he spent many times alone in prayer.

No work outside the home can fulfill the work of a connected heart. Sometimes we have to go outside to give or fulfill an assignment so that we can come back inside, yes.  But He is always the source of our direction, satisfaction, generosity, and comfort. If the comfort comes from other places, it will most often also come with some defaulted setbacks. So unless He’s specifically ordered it, it saves time and energy to move with the inside of the heart first.

What goes out into the world is most valuable and most healing when it has happened within our heart and home first.  And this is what we see from this noble wife.  As the snow falls, her family is dressed in scarlet.  It is the blood of Christ and the brokenness of her suffering and of His rising.  They are safe when the cleansing arrives.  She has done her work and is not in fear of judgement.  

It leads me to believe that this woman not only was a seemingly rock star, but she also had been around the block a few times.  She must have had a sense of grace, redemption, and forgiveness in her midst.  She must have had her fair share of brokenness and wounding, redemption and restoration.  Otherwise, this wouldn’t have worked the way it did, and it wouldn’t have had the depth that it carried.

It proves that God loves the underdog, that He is with the poor, that He has grace for those who were born into pain or somehow ended up there. It’s how generosity seems to work. Those who have had it all, all the time, must learn how to suffer with grace. It might sound cruel, but it is the reality of the Gospel.  Suffering well is actually an art form, a laying down of will and power and control. It is a surrendering to greater love and fulfillment. 

Those who have come from suffering usually already know how to give in some respects simply because suffering has had its way; overcomers can relate here.  The discipline, though, comes in giving from the inside out, because the deeper the resurrection of one’s suffering, the greater and more fruitful the gift.  Our own communion with God is the best gift we can give back to Him.  

Our salvation is true when our heart’s faith receives Jesus, in all his forms and ways. When we offer back that vulnerability and generosity to God, He is the one who makes us rise again. He gives us His life inside the place of His death.  And it’s in this form that our giving and generosity takes its most legitimate shape. It keeps our humility in check because we are fully aware of Who the Giver is and that is what attracts more of His presence.  Without knowing some sort of pain, I’m afraid that the human condition is simply prone to wander from the holiness of the Gift. It’s what we battle with as we grow into understanding His ways in new and bolder forms of life.  And I think it’s what we need in order for us to remain children, ones who are provided for instead of who need to provide.  We cannot fully cover our nakedness, only He can. It reminds us of childlike faith instead of false responsibility and unbridled compassion.

We can be conservative in our relationship with God and liberal in our giving.  It’s a balance of healthy boundaries and also of grace, the truth of a healed heart matched with the generosity of a surrendered one.  This gives us the opportunity to serve with integrity, knowing we are covered in scarlet and that purity is full.  It takes a lifetime to continually learn this because each step gives rise to new challenges.  Often it needs to rain before it can actually snow.  Healing first and then sturdy, unique and lovely design to come.

How is giving and generosity stewarded in your life? Where are your setbacks? Where are your wounds? These places in your heart where you may feel unqualified, abused, broken, mistreated, or unhealed? How does God want to be The Giver to you in your life? In your circumstances? 

When we slow down enough, these aches and pains usually come to the surface.  We start to become present with ourselves and with our reality.  We start to acknowledge that these feelings and emotions may be stuck in our minds or in our bodies.  They may be gently whispering to be let out or they may be screaming at us.  They may have gotten triggered or maligned, but they can also be set free.  And when they get free, He can save us with His healing and His righteousness, with His fullness and with His grace.  

And out of that deep place of receiving and abiding, we can give away that gift to another person who needs it while still being fully covered in our own lives. This is twirling. It’s in that process that the snow will fall. He will make us white and clean, perfectly unique and straight from Heaven Himself.  He will make us new, and our family will be nourished.  Because that’s how this woman worked.  She found her identity in Jesus, she learned her value through Him, she gathered the talents He gave her to steward and then she bought that field. She worked diligently and managed her energy well, and then she extended her hand to the poor.  And with these qualities, not only does she cover herself and those who work with her, but she also sets the stage to be the bride.  She sets the stage to be a fulfilled wife, a co-partner and a contributor. She is full of nobility, and she carries righteousness in her midst. She is not the trophy nor the leader, she is the fulfilment and beauty of original design.

And you know what is so wonderful in this process? She’s not asking her husband to do this for her. She’s done this on her own accord. This is her gift, her life, the testimony of her body broken and resurrected for the presentation of herself as the bride.  She has been made ready to walk down the aisle and to present herself, whether she’s due to be married, whether she already is, or whether she’s even been married before.  We are always presenting ourselves in some fashion.  Maybe this isn’t your first rodeo, and you need to take some time to go backward in order to go forward.  Maybe there are some areas in your heart that need healing and help, and there is no shame in that.  She is our picture to look to for grace and understanding–not an expectation to perform to in our search for perfectionism, acceptance, or identity. She is truth, and she is grace. She is messy, and she is redeemed. She is everything, sometimes all at once. And most importantly, He is God; He is all seeing and all knowing. He has created her, given her new life for the old one, erased her transgressions and re-fueled her for service.  This is her story, and He is her song, the voice of identity rising in the midst of ashes and also refining fire.

This is who you get to be.  This is the price He paid in His suffering and in His rising. Allow your brokenness to mold you and shape you.  Let it give you the acceptance needed to fall into His lap of love.  Let Him wash over you with grace and mercy while carrying out the work that is required for strength and dignity, so that you can then give that beautiful gift away with depth and with power. Twirl, my friend. Let Him reveal you in the way in which He designed His gift and joy in your birth and in your overcoming.

Twirling Tips for Chapter 6:

How is giving and generosity stewarded in your life?

How does God want to be The Giver to you in your circumstances?

Where are your setbacks and wounds?

A Prayer:

God, thank you for giving us the ultimate gift, Jesus.  Thank you for your death and your resurrection, your joy and your power in our lives.  Help us to be open and available to receiving all that you want to be for us because you love us and because we can share it with others. Amen.

Copyright Sarah Elizabeth Humphrey 2018. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

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