“But I, with shouts of grateful praise, will sacrifice to You…”
Jonah 2:9a NIV
“Finish your soup! There are starving children in China who would love to have it.” Sitting at my grandparent’s table with my sister and two cousins, we glared at the bowls of tomato soup in front of us. Glancing at one another, agreeing by the rolling of four sets of eyes, we were more than willing to ship our foul soup off to China.
I appreciate the values my depression-era grandparents instilled in us (and what I wouldn’t give to sit at a table with them again). But unfortunately, picturing poor Chinese kids did not help me want my soup.
Yet this was a pivotal moment in my life’s journey that led me to muse over my good fortune, wrestle with feelings of guilt, and write out questions in my pink Barbie diary (it even had a lock and key).
Why did God allow me to live in the USA?
Why wasn’t I one of the starving children in China?
Why was I born… ME?
As a child, I didn’t exude gratefulness. Sure, I had my moments, but I was a typical upper-middle-class American kid. My every need was provided for, and I was loved dearly, yet entitled. I never saw or met a truly poor child until well into adolescence.
During my adult life, I’ve had opportunities to see and meet poor children: American kids in the foster and school systems and kids in Mexico living in dumps and begging on the streets. I have met homeless orphans and been with children of Mexican prisoners living in boxes next to the prison. Precious kids needing a bowl of tomato soup and oh so much more.
Because of these experiences and by God’s grace, I have grown into a grateful woman (most of the time).
Yet I struggle. Still. I can’t find the right place for my soul to land. I bounce back and forth between feelings of utter gratefulness and then guilt: for all that I have (possessions, family, friends, etc.) because I am who I am and live where I live. Guilt because I don’t give enough to those who are hurting, lost, and hungry and for being materialistically enslaved.
I’ve added adult questions to the ones in my girlhood diary…
How do I help everyone I want to help?
How do I help the masses of needy people in this world?
Will there be enough left to pay our bills?
How do I resolve my guilt?
How do I battle materialism and come out semi-victorious?
It is Thanksgiving month, and the holiday season is barreling in. Everywhere we turn, there are oodles of charities asking for donations. So. Much. Need.
Hundreds of scripture verses inspire us to give with an open hand. This one gets me every time: “When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” Luke 18:22 NIV
Sell everything you have?! Me, God? Is this scripture to be taken literally, or is it about the condition of my heart?
Oh, how the condition of my heart is messy.
Maybe you are like me – desiring to give wholeheartedly, feeling grateful for all you have, and yet holding your tomato soup out to God in a partially open hand?
Is guilt sprinkled on top of your soup like it is on mine?
Ponder a few points with me:
- God is sovereign. God is love. God is the Provider. His ways are not our ways, and our wrestling should end with Him, end in trusting Him. To honestly tell Him we want to trust Him and are scared to do so, confessing that we do not understand why things are as they are.
- Reconcile that our war with materialism might not end on this side of eternity. However, we can continually surrender this issue and make room for Him to fill us instead of earthly goods. This may always be imperfect progress.
- Take small steps in faith, remembering point #1. Trust. Trust. Trust. We have been given MUCH, so let’s strive (by His grace) to give much. Ask Him to help.
- We can’t give to the entire world. We just can’t. But we can choose charities that particularly touch our hearts. My family’s favorites during the holiday season are Operation Christmas Child, World Vision, Angel Tree, and our local food pantry.
- Become comfortable with being uncomfortable. I think our God wants us to wrestle with hard questions. To pray through our convictions. To come to Him with our guilt. This is how He increases our faith and gives us a yearning for Heaven.
Join me in seeking to trust Him as He opens our partially closed hands. In between guilt and gratefulness is grace. God’s breathtakingly beautiful paradox of grace.
By the way, eating tomato soup has gotten easier over the years; in fact, I quite like it now, much like giving.
“If you can’t feed a hundred people, then just feed one.”