Being in ministry much of the time is spent giving. As I serve in an impoverished country, the opportunities to give are endless. Whether it’s time, a ride to the hospital, school uniforms, medicine, teaching English, encouragement, or prayer… the list goes on and on. Most of the time, I love it. I enjoy finding ways not just to give but to provide ways for those I have grown to know and love to be empowered to do for themselves, too. Yet, sometimes, my human-ness gets in the way and clouds my vision.
A couple weeks ago I was visiting a dear Nicaraguan family who has been a huge blessing to me. Occasionally, I enjoy bringing something to share – something that they don’t normally get to enjoy because of finances. So, on the way back to the community I picked up a coke thinking it would be fun to share and enjoy while we chatted. (Side note: Coke is extremely popular in Nicaragua.)
When I arrived, I got out of the car – so excited to share the little blessing with those I loved! With a smile on my face I entered the house and greeted everyone. My dear friend went for the cups so we could unscrew the coke and pass it around. Yet, the next moment someone said, “And where are the cookies and bread to go with the coke?” Someone else said, “It’s warm, where’s the ice. Why’d you get a hot one?”
My smile disappeared. My heart sank. My friend and I started to share the coke with those who wanted it… but my heart wasn’t in it any more. My mind started racing with negative thoughts. “Well, we’ll see when I do something nice for you again.” “Okay, then… Next time you ask for something I won’t be helping.” “Is it too much to ask for just a simple thank you?” I didn’t want to sit and share conversation anymore, I wanted to leave. My friend noticed and knew what was up (she’s incredibly perceptive). We went outside for some space and all at once the Lord convinced me of my own unthankful, sinful heart.
“Sweet Bethany…” I heard my Abba Father wooing me to Him. “In all I have done for you, how often have you stopped to thank me?” “Do I stop blessing you and showing you mercy just because you forget to say thank you?” Ouch. It hurt my heart yet soothed it like a sweet balm to my soul. I have so much to be thankful for and my Abba Father has done so much for me – yet so often I just move on to the next thing I need help with or need. No, God doesn’t stop loving me or pouring His blessings on me. He is merciful. He is gracious. And I am called to be merciful and gracious, too.
Anytime I see a coke, I’m reminded of this lesson. I’m reminded to be thankful. I’m reminded to show mercy and be filled with grace regardless of how it’s received. I’m reminded to do a heart check as to why I am giving… is it to receive thanks and recognition or is it to simply be a blessing.
I don’t know where you are in life, but I think this is a good reminder for us all…whether it’s with your kids, students, at work, on a sports team, with your spouse or roommates – these thoughts should impact our relationships. Brothers and Sisters in Christ – may this be so in our lives. May we abound in giving grace and mercy unconditionally – Not for our own sake, but for the sake of the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.
“All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God.” II Corinthians 4:15.
Secure with you in His Grace and Mercy,