Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Deficit giving

I can always tell when I'm running on empty spiritually.  I start giving and doing things for people that normally I would love...and I feel spent, resentful, and touchy.

I think that the culture I come from encourages deficit spending giving.  The saying, "Give til it hurts" always leaves me saying, "Why?" Even - and sadly, especially - in the church.

I've seen people who come into a church, make a decision to follow Jesus - and the first thing they hear is, "You gotta start doing stuff."  The idea is to get the newcomer involved and serving others as quickly as possible before he or she is even grounded in the basics of the faith.  

The rules and regulations of religion : do this, don't do that, do, do, do... burn the new believer out before he or she even grows any spiritual roots.  Told to pray, for example, the new believer prays.  Before long he or she is faced with an answer from God that is unexpected - "No."  (It happens.)  Instead of being counseled to accept the answer, the disappointed person is told to pray harder because he or she was not praying hard enough.  Or perhaps not enough people were recruited to add strength to those prayers.  Because, goodness knows, if you can't get the answer you want, say it over and over and over again, with more and more intensity - or get others to join you so you can twist God's arm and manipulate Him into getting what you want. (Say what??)

(Why am I reminded of the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel, shouting and working themselves up into a frenzy, slicing themselves in their "ardor"?)

It all funnels the person into the fallacious belief that humans have to convince God to do what He so desires to do.  So we try and try and try - knock ourselves out - to do what we think is expected of us, to do what we think we "should" be doing (shudder.) And the reason why it doesn't work for us is that we somehow are not doing it right, not doing it enough, or not doing it with enough voices to back us up.

The saddest part is that we truly believe this - some of us never stop believing it - and we burn our candles at both ends and end up incredibly unhappy for a very long time.

Over two years ago, I ran across a different way of approaching life and faith.  Admit you're powerless over yourself and others, believe God can bring balance and sanity to your inner world. Turn your will and your life over to God's care, empty yourself of the hurts of the past and honestly take responsibility for your own part in them. Be willing to have God to remove those character defects and ask (not tell) Him to remove them.  Get to know yourself. Clear away any wreckage you've left in your path.  Keep on top of your self-destructive attitudes, and develop and deepen an intimate relationship with God.  ONLY THEN are you in a position to give to others - from a place of fulness, grace and humility. 

Yes, it is a tall order - and yes, it takes time and a lot of hard work.  But there's one thing I know for sure and can tell you from experience, because I tried all that other stuff and it left me feeling dry, resentful, and jaded.  Since I started on this journey in 2009, I've been able to help quite a few people after going through the hard stuff.  And I have discovered that in this lifestyle of rigorous honesty, openness and willingness, there is one thing that is true more days than not.

I'm happy.

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