After 8 years in Michigan, I was back in California, a newly minted pediatrician with a great job. For the first time, I was making money. I wanted to be a good steward of my income, so I prayed and thought very carefully about that money. I worked hard to pay off my student loans. I lived beneath my means and had a plan to be mortgage free in 15 years. I hit the 10% mark accurately. Every gift came only after scrupulous research. I targeted various causes and examined financial reports, looking for misused funds.
I was a good steward. Also a constrained and smugly self satisfied steward.
One day I went to the shopping center. On my way back to my economical Ford Escort I noticed a woman standing with a cardboard sign at the exit, gathering donations from shoppers as they drove away. Now, beggars fell pretty far down my list of acceptable charitable recipients. But I sat in my car and stared at her. I could not shake the oddest of feelings: a distinct impression that I should give her my sweater. Gazing at her I thought it through. This made no sense at all. I was not one to hear specific God messages like this. My sweater was nothing so special, a no name brand I had picked up on clearance. But I liked it. It was cozy, a thick burgundy fleece, unusual.
Reasoning that I must be imagining things, and I could help her with food instead, I drove off to buy her a sandwich. I decided not to get a cheap sandwich, but a really nice sandwich from a pricey high end deli a couple miles away. Dutifully returning with the gourmet lunch, dessert included, I sat dismayed with the paper bag in my lap. Unfortunately she was still at her post (I'd been nursing a dark hope she would disappear during my deli visit). I thought about how I did really live a humble life and hugged my sweater closer. But the nagging feeling only grew more etched in my heart, "give her your sweater". I looked around the car, hoping to find a suitable alternative piece of clothing. Nothing. I got out of the car, climbed back in. Prayed. Thought.
For an embarrassing 2 hours I pursued this ridiculous wrestling match in my mind when I finally gave in. I'd give her the sandwich too! It occurred to me that God might be setting up an incredible moment. Maybe...she would look at the sweater, then me, gasp, and begin sobbing...maybe she'd been cold and had prayed for one small thing, a maroon sweater...maybe as she clutched gratefully it she would ask all about Jesus...maybe I would even get to stand up in church on Sunday and share this beautiful tear soaked moment....
The drama played in my mind as I walked over to her and introduced myself. She was about my age, and quite pleasant. I said, "I brought you some food" holding out the bag, ..."and a sweater", holding it out expectantly.
Smiling brightly she reached for the paper bag, "Oh thank you! That is so kind of you! I will eat this tonight!" Then she looked over at the sweater, looked at me and said politely,
"thank you but I don't need a sweater".
It took a few moments for me to digest that.
I masked my surprise with friendly conversation into which I kept inserting the sweater. One thing was clear to me: I could not leave with that sweater still in my hand! Desperate now, I considered throwing it at her and running away. In the end I basically begged her to take it and pass it on. I believe she finally accepted it out of pity, and probably in hopes this stalker-like lady I had become would just go away.
Driving away I felt God chuckling. I had to love Him for that. Instead of condemnation or critique, I felt Him chuckling, and I began to laugh as well at my ludicrous afternoon.
God had been talking to me alright. Turns out, it had nothing to do with her need, and everything to do with my poverty of spirit. That afternoon God lifted off the cover of my heart and showed me a few things. I had alot right about stewardship, but I was missing much more. In clutching my resources so tightly I was missing the crucial dimensions of abundance, fullness, and freedom.
I was forgetting all I had was Gods to begin with.
Over the years now I understand that my heart was small because my understanding of the character of God was so lacking. As I have watched God work, and He has healed many wounds inside me, I can experience now an abundance of grace that I never could see before. It was always there for me, I just could not see it , believe it, or accept it. I am learning to accept the grace and love and peace He offers all of us. The more I take in the freer I am to give.
God wants us to live, give, and receive in abundance. It's so much more fun!
enjoy all that Jesus has for you,
soak in His abounding love,
and pour it out all over those around you. HAPPY THANKSGIVING!