Monday, March 6, 2017

On Being and Giving.

Last summer, I read Madeleine L'engle's book A Circle of Quiet per the recommendation of a friend of mine, Angela. She's an avid reader and an excellent writer, so I trusted her recommendation without question. If you remember, I more than loved it. It was indescribable to read pages from a woman's mind that seemed to come from my own, except, said better and with far more life experience and adventure than I feel able to bring. Anyway, I keep coming back to the word Madeleine was fixated on: ontology.

Actually, I don't care much for the word, but I am intrigued by the concept: Being.

I love accomplishing tasks. Big or small, if they get done and I can show evidence of the validity of my accomplishments, I am one happy woman. Not for long though, as there is always more to do, more to prove, more to achieve. But the older I get, the more I want to be loved for who I am, not just for what I do. This is great for the saved, because it isn't our sinful nature that defines us, but our being children of God that determines our worth. And I'm finding my happiness is linked to this difference in thinking too: we are not what we do, but who we are becoming.

This idea keeps popping up in everything I do, all the movies I watch, all the books I read, and many of the interactions I have with my kids. Finding our center, our being, the part of us that God made tick a specific and purposeful way, is going to bring us more peace than any other endeavor on earth. Like it or not, we will not find that peace if our hunt in not centered on God. It is only in Him that we find any purpose worthwhile.

He did not create us so we can glory in ourselves, and a major part of our purpose in being created by God is to have fellowship with Him. Our being brings Him glory, and His glory brings us happiness. It's insanely simple and completely generous.

Consider this. When I look at the ocean, the more I know about it, the more I experience it, the more I see amazing life within it, then the more peace reigns over me while I am there. When I look at flowers, the more familiar they become, the more I can name them accurately, the more I can tell their smells apart, then the more of a joy they are to me. Are you seeing the trend? The more we know the being of something, the more beautiful it is to us. This is true for God, and true for ourselves. The more we know God, the more we enjoy Him. The more we live true to the spark of creativity and potential He put within each of us, the more we are glad to be us. We must always give all credit to God for His amazing design, grace, and purpose, but we have to also recognize the incredible beauty He planted in each of us.

So here are my two pieces of advice to be happy with you, with your particular and original being, and I do not give these independent from knowing God - that is the first must!

1. Look at yourself less. I know, it seems weird to love yourself more by looking at yourself less, but it really is true. The more you focus on what you are now, the less time and energy you have to become the person God is shaping you to be - wonderful, perfectly formed, and a blessing to others. Stop looking in the mirror so much, stop thinking about what you could have done, and stop wishing to be something other than the current version of yourself.

2. Give kindness. It's the best way to be the best you. Recently, I read a snippet about how trying to please others doesn't actually please them, but being a happy and pleasant person to be around is what actually pleases other people. If we think more about smiling at our children, paying attention to the needs of others, and being gentle towards those we encounter, the joy we spread will outnumber the stars and cause us to be more in line with the purposes God has for us. You won't feel deprived of self-care, but you will be blessed by spreading love so generously, by having God's Spirit moving through you.

That seems really easy, completely over-the-top dumbed down. Maybe it is, but I know it works. When I smiled and waved at my daughter on her bike the other day, her surprise quickly turned to joy in both of our hearts. When I encouraged my son to do the same thing on her next trip around the sport-court, we tripled the joy between us. We all became a little more us, a little more the way God wants us to be: giving, joyful, purposeful, pleasant.

As the joy quickly turned to the grumps in our house, I reminded my son "It doesn't matter what you get in this life, it's what you give that makes the difference". It's also what makes you specifically you. What you give to others is part of the intentional design of our creator. The ocean gives awe, flowers give cheer, clouds give rain and inspiration, and those qualities, along with thousands of others, are what make each of these creations uniquely divine. So it is with us.

What you give is forming you every day, both in your own being and in your being towards others. If you want to be happy with who you are, or content with what is going on in your life, think less about you and think more about what you can give. It's the upside-down way to peace, and it was God's upside-down way to redemption as well, in giving us His Son. My prayer is that my life will lead you to aim high in enjoying your giving, whatever that looks like for you. Giving up vices, or giving up time, giving up bad attitudes, or giving away your cash. What we give says more about who we are than our words can ever articulate. You were made to give life, and God empowers us to give more than we can imagine, even more than exists within us. That is the biggest blessing in our giving - feeling the movement of God in our lives. Enjoy becoming who you are meant to be by loving the act of giving. It does not lead to loss, but to the greatest abundance you can imagine, and more.

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