I was attacking a conglomeration of spider webs in the corners of my bathroom today. Seems like that’s one of those household jobs akin to doing the dishes: you’ve barely finished when it’s time to start all over. Those spiders remake their webs as quickly as I can destroy them. I suppose the smart thing would be to go after the spiders themselves. But being a generally warm-hearted person towards all things living (mosquitoes being one exception), I ignore the spiders and simply continue my undying war against their trappings.
How similar to cobwebs are those sticky character issues in our lives. It seems that one occasion of victory is simply followed by another battle along the same vein. How easy to simply focus on cleaning up the mess that crops up in the corners of our lives and miss the insidious spiders causing problems in the first place. Some of the cobwebs that crop up in my life include laziness, impatience and worry about the future. The spider behind the mess simply goes by the name selfishness.
God is not as squeamish about killing some things as I am. He goes right after the spider in His efforts to restore my condition. It is pretty uncomfortable; truth be told, I might prefer to let those spiders live. But the Bible makes it pretty clear: It’s either the spiders or the Spirit. Which one will I partner with today?
“Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.” Galatians 5:24-25
Lately I have been confronted day in, day out, with a character trait that can make me exceedingly uncomfortable–generosity. I have not had too many situations where my life and livelihood were so daily affected by this quality in people largely strangers to me, and I don’t always know how to respond. Unlike in a restaurant, where tips may be based on quality of service, people generally choose to be generous to me apart from any particular merit on my part; they give even before tasting their drinks. Whenever someone is particularly open-handed I walk away blessed and grateful, with the feeling that I’ve been given a gift I don’t deserve.
Last week after an occasion of this kind of generosity I found myself contemplating what it would be like if God came to my drive-through window. What kind of tipper would He be? My understanding of God’s character makes me think He would have to be one of those alarmingly generous ones who give far more than we would ever expect — the kind of giver who makes our jaw drop a little, that we don’t know how to respond to — and this without any merit on our part. I’ve known and believed this about God’s character for a long time, but I often find myself living as if it were not true. Life leaves me struggling to trust God’s goodness, His giving nature. I catch myself worrying about finances, not sure whether I’ll have what I need tomorrow. How can I be generous when penny pinching is my reality? I must first realize the alternate reality of how much I’ve been given. When I ponder all God gives me daily, I am amazed — this sunrise, this work, this body, this cup of sweet and savory coffee, this friend who has stood by me for years, this ability to dream and imagine beautiful things in the future — I am truly blessed by the generosity of God, a generosity that began in the very act of creation. When God created the earth, He made it fruitful, abundant and good. He gave all its richness to us, to steward and enjoy. He made a world where there is more than enough, a world where generosity is possible.
What would it look like to reflect God’s generous character in my life–to shed my own Scrooge-like nature in exchange for the divine? My generous tippers show God to me in ways I often fail to reflect it to others. I am challenged to open my hands wider — to say “yes” to God’s ability to provide in my life, and pour more out on a world just waiting to be turned upside down.