I sat on the pew, its smooth wood clad in crimson velvet, fitting since our church rested in the shadows of Bryant-Denny stadium. I was a college kid working a part-time job at the Science & Engineering Library. My job didn’t pay much but when things were quiet in the stacks I could work on school assignments at the front desk. My little paychecks would buy a new shirt every once in a while or a waffle cone of white chocolate mousse from the TCBY that stayed open past midnight.
Every week as I sat in the pew the offering plate would pass down my row, and my heart would grow uneasy. I felt a tug to give, knowing I should give and even wanting to give. But I could never push out of my mind the things I wanted, even needed. I would rationalize, deciding to put in just a little, enough to quiet the restlessness in my heart.
It would be a few years later before I learned what giving really was. After graduation and moving home and wedding bells, Matt and I stumbled upon a person who changed us forever. Miss Nan, with her coiffed hair and perfectly-manicured nails, taught us how to give and Matt and I were never the same.
She didn’t just teach us theology or budgeting principles, although those are certainly important. She taught us from a life spent giving cheerfully and lavishly. She told story after story of God’s faithfulness and dared us to trust God like never before. We wanted what she had. We wanted to see the things she had seen and witness the miracles she had witnessed. We wanted to be used and trusted like she was. We desired an abundant life, one not measured by the wealth of our possessions but by the generosity and gratitude of our hearts.
Watching her life, we began a new adventure. From that season forward we tithed faithfully, not because we had to or felt like we should but because we had tasted adventure and we wanted more. We looked for opportunities to give because we wanted to push the pen further in the story God was writing around us. I know a lot of people get hung up on a tithe being 10%, and I’ll leave that topic to smarter men and women to debate. But I wonder often if God asked us to give a tenth because He knew that was the number that would make us feel something, the percentage that disturbed our comfortable life, the figure that required trust instead of control.
“We must give until it hurts. For love to be true it has to hurt. It hurt Jesus to love us; it hurt God to love us because He had to give. He gave His Son. This is the meaning of true love, to give until it hurts.” Mother Teresa
Give until it hurts. That is the invitation God lays before us, and it’s the sacrifice He made when He sent us Jesus. That is the lesson Miss Nan lived out for Matt and me. And that is spirit with which Matt and I want to live each and every day. Hands open and hearts ready to watch God take our pennies and dollar bills, but even more our willing hearts, and change the world.
As we approach Thanksgiving, I am asking God to show me how I can give until it hurts… gritty, raw, uncomfortable giving. Maybe for you it’s forgiveness to a family member whose painful words still sting like lemon juice on a cut. Or grace to the sibling who keeps running despite your fervent prayers for him to come home. Or maybe it’s trading in the Black Friday mayhem to give chickens to farmers trying to create a better life in Ethiopia. Wherever you are, I pray you’ll join me as we seek to give until it hurts. Not just for Thanksgiving and not just for November, but forever. Knowing every time we give until it hurts, we impress upon His beloved children the fingerprints of Christ.