Until It Hurts

Until It Hurts

IMG_7868I 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. 

Why 50/50 Doesn’t Work

Why 50/50 Doesn’t Work

cakeIt looks like it would work. Two individuals, one marriage. Two halves, one whole. Two forks, one slice of salted caramel cake. Math was never my forte, but one hundred divided by two equals fifty every time. If 50/50 looks good on paper, why doesn’t it work in real life?

A few years into our marriage, Matt came home from work one day, and I had a sheet of paper hanging on the refrigerator. We were both working full-time jobs, and we would come home from work exhausted and ready to sit on the couch and do nothing. Meanwhile, our outfits were getting “creative” since all the clothes we owned were in dirty piles in our bedroom. The dishes were overflowing in the sink. We had missed a couple weeks of trash pickup because we forgot to take the can to the curb. And dust bunnies were propagating as good little bunnies do. I’m the control-freak, slightly OCD one (although becoming a mom has pretty much broken me of that) so I was the one noticing all the chaos. I was the one feeling the stress, and I was the one feeling like I was the only one doing anything around the house. So, I came up with a list of chores, divided them into days and assigned each chore to “M” or “E.” When Matt came home, I had the list prominently displayed on the fridge so he had no excuse not to see his assignments each day. He didn’t say much when I showed it to him, much like the reaction I expected, but I pressed on. I reminded him that marriage is a 50/50 relationship, we ended the very one-sided conversation, and I felt  much better having gotten some tasks off my plate. Splitting it 50/50 looked awesome on my detailed, color-coded chore list, but a few days later it blew up in real life.

The problem with a 50/50 mindset is that we come into every situation asking the question, “What’s the least I can do to get by?” Approaching marriage with a 50/50 perspective creates an atmosphere of competition as we continually try to “one-up” each other.

You think you’ve had a hard day… let me tell you what happened to me.

Couldn’t you do this one thing? Look at everything I’ve done for you.

There you go again… not holding up your end of the deal when I’ve busted my butt over here.

I’ve learned the hard way that a 50/50 relationship doesn’t work in real life. It leaves you feeling frustrated and isolated. It turns out the only percentage that works in marriage is 100%, both of us giving our all to the marriage. And the kicker is… we can’t wait until the other person gets on board to start giving our 100%. It’s easy to jump on the spinning Ferris wheel that says, “I’ll start giving when he starts giving. Or I’ll start serving when she starts serving.” But we could circle around and around on that Ferris wheel for the rest of our lives. Someone has to be the first one to get off that wheel and find a new ride, a different game or, better yet, a funnel cake.

We have to change our question from, “What’s the least I can do to get by?” to “How can I do more, give more, speak more life?” We have to out-serve and out-love our spouse. It’s unconditional love. We know what this love looks like because we demonstrate it to our kids often. When they wake us up in the middle of the night, we tuck them back in with a kiss and a hug. When they break the special keepsake we told them a dozen times to leave alone, we forgive them and let it go. Even with our kids, though, we don’t always choose unconditional love, but we see this kind of love demonstrated perfectly for us through Christ. While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. While we were still screwed up, ridiculously imperfect and crazy selfish, He died for us. He didn’t wait for us to get our act together. That’s what it looks like to give 100% to a relationship.

Let’s be honest. Giving 100% isn’t easy. Especially when the baby is teething or your meeting at work was just awful or the dogs escaped from the back yard again. These are the times when it’s hardest to give 100% to your spouse because you’ve spent all day giving to everyone else and now you just feel empty. The good news is that giving is infectious and energizing. I love those insurance commercials where you see one person go out of his way to do something nice for another person and then that person does it for another person and so on. I can remember many times when I’ve been having a pull-your-hair-out-hide-in-the-bathroom-pass-the-brownies kind of day and a friend has sent me a text just saying she’s thinking about me or my best friend calls with a funny story and makes me laugh or my husband brings home a big cup of iced tea, half and half, just the way I like it. That one act of kindness can completely alter my day. That simple gesture breathes new life into my weary soul. Let’s be that person. Let’s give 100%.

Appreciation instead of demands.

Encouragement instead of insults.

Grace instead of chore charts.