If you know me, you likely know my obsession with tea. Over the years, my affinity for herbal, rooibos, and oolong has culminated in a collection of epic proportions. While I’ve never fallen under the spell of coffee, I am very much devoted to soothing, hot mugs of tea. And one of the biggest blessings of having a large collection (both at home and at work), is getting to share my tea- and it’s story- with others.
I have fresh tea from spots like Michigan, the Virgin Islands, New Mexico, and Canada. And I find joy in sharing the backstory of each tea as I give and trade it with others. Yes, tea is definitely a commodity I love to share.
And yet, as I’ve discussed in previous posts, my sharing streak is often limited to warm beverages and the common cold. Even as I write this, I’m reminded of the childhood book, “Buzzle Billy,” who had a bad case of the “gimme hands.”
Is that what I’m like, Lord? Am I so quick to take from others and from you, that I find my hands too full to receive the blessings you have for me?
The answer, too often, is yes. Or, equally problematic, I devote myself to others for selfish reasons– namely, so that I will seem godly or perfect to them.
Do you know what’s funny, though? I don’t do this with tea. Frankly, I don’t have the need to. The more tea I share, the more people know my love of tea and like to share or give tea to me. That, my friend, is community.
As God reminded me recently, faith in Him is not so different. When I hold His blessings loosely, it opens up the floodgates for His Spirit to move in me and in those around me. When I give of my time, my talents, and my treasure– the King is glorified and the Kingdom is made known here on earth.
Great, I think (and perhaps that’s your thought as well). That’s just great. But it doesn’t help me much in the heat of the moment when my heart wants to curl up with a good book and my talents are needed to serve others.
That’s when it dawns on me: When we are wrestling with living a life of selflessness, it is often because we are not actively giving ourselves to the Lord. See, when we try to volunteer time or give financially or emotionally support someone, it has to pour out from somewhere. If our hearts and minds aren’t saturated in the Word, our giving will be from an empty well.
That kind of living results in halfhearted friendships, canceled commitments, and a list of obligations that are inconsistently check off with an increasingly hardened heart.
I know this because I’ve been there. I’ve plopped myself into that canyon for hours, days, and even weeks at a time. I sit in the shadows, staring up at the Son, wondering, God, why am I so upset? Why am I so sad?
I am ever grateful for the convicting power of the Holy Spirit that, time and time again, gently reminds me that this world is not about me. And it’s not about you.
Oh that I could hold my time as loosely as I hold a new box of tea.
Just as I trust in the multiplying satisfaction of passing out tea sachets, I want to trust in the multiplying satisfaction of giving myself to the Lord and to others.
It’s a rough journey, friends. But I know that each time I surrender my control to God, He gives of Himself in a way that far surpasses my scheduled evening or my financial safety net.
So what do we do? We keep coming back to the Word. We dig our heels into selfless living and repent when we go astray. Sometimes, when I am hesitant to give of myself when and where God has called me, I find it helpful- albeit painful- to give even more than I initially planned. A little more time, a little more money, a little more of myself. Because that extra push helps dislodge me from my sinful tendencies.
And then I find myself at the top of the valley, warmed by the Son, lacking in nothing, and a little bit less afraid.
I know this is a great area of weakness in me; I hope that by sharing it, I can encourage and edify those of you who, like myself, are struggling in this area. By the Lord’s grace, we’ll keep moving forward, friends– making less and less trips into that canyon and spending more and more time living with and for Jesus.
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others (Philippians 2:3-4).