The Void

By: Beth Massey

It’s Christmastime, the season of giving, our opportunity to reflect on God’s greatest gift to mankind – Jesus. We sing carols, we decorate our homes, send cards to friends and bake cookies. We spend hours shopping for (and hundreds of dollars buying) just the right gifts to show our loved ones how much we care. And as it’s the season of giving, our hearts ache a little more than usual for the those in need, for those whom a season of celebration and abundance is a burden. We gladly answer the ring of the Salvation Army bell with the clink of spare change. We joyfully drop puzzles, dolls, and games in the Toys For Tots box at the grocery. Perhaps we adopt a local family to clothe and feed on Christmas Eve, or we pluck an angel from the Angel Tree. We invite neighbors to church with more fervor and eagerly volunteer our time opening doors, pouring coffee, and caring for children during Christmas Eve services.

GENEROSITY. It’s a hallmark of the season, isn’t it? But shouldn’t it be a hallmark of a Christ-centered life all year? Not just generosity with our time, our talents, and our finances, but especially with our spirit? Just what does generosity of spirit look like in our daily lives? It’s kindness, pure and simple. It’s love without strings attached. It’s meaning what you say and only saying what you genuinely mean. It’s treating others with fairness, despite the circumstances you face, and leaving all notions of self-administered justice at the curb. And, trust me friends, it sounds a lot easier to practice than it actually is.

A failure to be generous of spirit with others reveals a desperate struggle against emptiness within our own hearts. We cannot give from a place of emptiness. In a void, we will inevitably hoard goodness out of fear. We will “like” a friend’s post on Facebook out of a sense of obligation and a wish to appear kind, when in reality we are gritting our teeth because… HER. KIDS. ALWAYS. LOOK. SO. DARN. PERFECT. AND. ADORABLE. AND. ARE. IN. MATCHING. MONOGRAMMED. OUTFITS. FOR. EVERY. SINGLE. FAMILY. EVENT. GOD. GIVE. ME. STRENGTH. MY. CHILDREN. ARE. MONKEYS. We will run some offender up a flagpole because, gosh darn it, what we think about that person matters! What we have to say about that person matters, despite the fact that: (1) don’t know that person; (2) we aren’t privy to all the mitigating factors surrounding their offense; and (3) we weren’t asked in the first place. We meet others’ personal and professional successes with a lack of enthusiasm, or worse, skepticism, or even worse, with flat-out displeasure because “they clearly don’t deserve it as much as I do.” We don’t pick up the phone to call because THEY never call US anymore. We celebrate when the ESPN ticker announces that our rival football team lost a game and dropped in the polls – that’ll teach ‘em, right? We don’t tip the server because she was rude.

Whew. Anyone feel convicted now? Because I do. It has taken me years, and as many wounds inflicted as suffered, to learn how to live with a spirit of generosity. What I’ve learned is this – you have to face the void, where it came from, why it still exists, and how you can fill it. When I faced the void, I saw deep loneliness and insecurity. I tried to fill it with relationships and with achievements. The more I pleased and the more I proved, the emptier I felt. I was pouring myself out for gain, to the point where I no longer new who I was, or even why I was. I struggled with anger and resentment. And then I met Jesus. And I was introduced to grace. And, for the first time, I really believed that I was loved, that I was already everything I needed to be without striving. He filled the void. His love freed me in so many ways, not the least of which is no longer feeling like I need to hoard goodness, kindness, love or mercy. I am assured of being made whole in Jesus, and I lose nothing by being generous of spirit with others. I am free to love without loss. We all are.

“One gives freely, yet grows all the richer;
another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want.
 Whoever brings blessing will be enriched,
and one who waters will himself be watered.”

Proverbs 11:24-25 ESV