The other day I was doing what I do every Wednesday: working out on the elliptical (aka the “grasshopper”) at my gym next to my BFF. I was thirty minutes in, starting to feel the sweat trickling, reading a super intense part of the book I’m currently obsessed with on my Nook, when my phone lit up. Joe was calling. (We’ll call him Joe because he wishes to remain anonymous. He’s a dear loved one.) Normally I don’t answer the phone when I’m working out, but he’d been trying to reach me for days and it just hadn’t worked out for us to connect. I decided to answer really quickly and tell him I’d call him back when I finished.
By the end of the phone call, I was choking back sobs.
“Lynds, I hear your writing retreat over the weekend went well,” he began.
“Yeah, it was a great time away to just focus on the book. Very needed,” I replied, slowing my pace and trying to catch my breath. “Sorry, if I sound funny. I’m working out at the gym right now.”
My subtle hint was not caught.
“What’s this I hear about you wanting to go to a writer’s conference?” Joe asked.
“Oh, it would be really nice, but at this point it’s just a dream. Those things are way too expensive,” I said, wiping sweat from my face and becoming aware that several people are staring at me wondering why in the world I’m talking on the phone.
“Well, you’re going,” he said matter-of-factly.
“It would definitely be nice. Maybe some day,” I answered, my cardio machine yelling at me to step faster.
“No, I mean you’re going. I’m paying.”
“What?” I came to a dead stop.
“Lyndsay, I believe in what you’re doing. I believe you have what it takes to accomplish it. If going to a writing conference is what you need, then I want to help you get there. So you’re going.”
I blinked back the tears that were blinding me. “Joe, that is so amazing. I don’t know what to say. . . . Thank you.”
“Well I’ll let you go then,” he said happily.
“Is that all you called about?” I was about to lose it.
“Yep. Love ya. Bye!”
Fast forward one day. I found out a family member was in some pretty urgent need of help in a way that I couldn’t give. In fact, no one in our family could. Her circle is small, so I reached out to some of my friends. Maybe they knew someone who knew someone who could help. Within seconds one of my friends told me she would volunteer. She has never met this family member of mine. She has no relationship with her at all. It would require a full day of her once a week for 3.5 months.
I couldn’t contain the tears as I sat at my desk.
This thing called generosity is selfless in a way that absolutely overwhelms my heart and reflects the face of God to me in a way that few other things do.
Joe is not wealthy. I know it will personally cost him and probably make him uncomfortable to support me in my literary efforts, but he has this incredibly selfless way of being generous even if he is in need.
My friend has four kids and a husband to take care of. I would think her generosity bank would be completely depleted day in and day out. But she is volunteering what she has to help a total stranger.
I am completely undone.
The Bible tells us to be generous: “But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?” 1 John 3:17
Generosity, as I have heard it preached on frequently, has often included some sort of enticing reward. “If you give, you will receive blessings in return.” While that’s true (1 Tim 6:17-19), whether the blessings are earthly or in heaven, the motive is what matters. If we are generous in order to earn accolades from other people, we are actually prideful. If we’re giving in order to issue a deposit from which to make a withdrawal at a later date, our generosity is actually selfish. (While this act is not wrong, it should not be confused with generosity.)
When we give, it is meant to be out of a loving heart, without the expectation of something in return. Why? Because He tells us to. Because it’s what Christ did.
Christ gave every single thing he had. He literally gave His blood, His tears, His sweat, and His last breath to generations of people who would mock and reject Him. Their ungrateful responses didn’t hinder His generous love, spilling from His side, dripping down His brow.
Personally, I’m being very challenged in my application of true generosity in my life. I’m asking myself how often I allow myself to give something that really costs me something without expecting something in return. Having been so frequently on the receiving end of this kind of generosity, I know how impactful it is. I know it can change peoples’ lives. It blesses me to tears.
I want to be that kind of generous.