Generosity: Paying Attention
Proverbs 11:24-25 (ESV)
24 One gives freely, yet grows all the richer; another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want. 25 Whoever brings blessing will be enriched, and one who waters will himself be watered.
What does it mean to give and grow richer? To bless and be enriched? To water and be watered? As the song goes, “money can’t buy me love”, so most certainly, generosity is not all about blessing one another with material wealth (don’t get me wrong, the church is most definitely sustained by your financial generosity…). But, money and material wealth mean nothing if we don’t also give the gift of caring and listening.
I spent this last weekend in Chicago for my seminary classes. I was so nervous about going. It was hard to stay connected to the other students throughout the fall semester given the format of this distance learning program. I felt unsure about the work I had done, how the formation process was working for me, and how I’d reintegrate back into the learning community. As it turns out, we all were pretty much feeling the same way. And how did we discover that? Because as we returned to one another, we listened to each other. And this listening, along with a caring attitude, was a blessing- to each other and our own selves. As we listened, the anxiety of returning to seminary melted away and we could begin the watering.
And it was the watering that truly filled me up and helped me return home with a new perspective: I can do this. I’m going to be ok (or even better than ok). This watering was rejuvenating and fulfilling and it happened just through the simple act of seeing one another, acknowledging each other’s gifts, and pausing to listen and give love. When we gathered in circles for conversation, I could feel a vibe of intentional listening from others when I spoke. In turn, I leaned in and paid more attention to others, ever deepening and enriching my own learning. When I was getting ready to leave, one of the other students (whom I don’t even know very well) looked at me from across the table and smiled and said, “I’m really going to miss you.” My heart swelled because no matter how little this individual knew me, I felt that my mere presence was being honored. So, as I left the group, I acknowledged each individual and gave them a loving goodbye. And the joy rose in me as the water in the river after it rains. And I now have more to give of myself- more hope, more joy, more love.