It’s a quiet September morning. It has taken all my energy and stamina, but I have loaded up a toddler and my very pregnant self into a car and driven a half hour to a church building full of women I have never met before, praying that my very obvious pregnant stomach will act as a buffer for my awkwardness around people I don’t know.
I have braced myself for sympathetic smiles and circles from which I am excluded and less-than-enthusiastic welcome for my daughter, who has never been away from me before and doesn’t actually fit into the appropriate age category.
After all, I am new here and this is a church.
I am met by something much different from my expectations. I am welcomed. My child is welcomed. And over the next 9 months, that welcome continues to grow to include my new baby for whom there technically is no class, but somehow always is someone willing to hold her.
It has been a year, I now bundle up my two toddlers, load them and my (very non-pregnant) self into the van and drive the ever-so-worth-it 30 minute drive to my Bible Study. Our Bible Study. The anticipation grows, and I am greeted and greet others by name, gather in that familiar circle, and our leader smiles warmly and begins to pray. Her words strike me deep in the heart, between deep breaths and the smell of fresh coffee.
“May we be generous…”
Generous? At first I assume she is referencing the offering envelopes we pass around the circle each week. And then I listen again, and I hear what she is saying. I hear what the Lord is saying.
“May we be generous as we share with one another.”
Her prayer is that we will share generously the truth that has been generously shared with us, that the grace extended to us we will freely extend to one another.
I wipe a tear from my eye and lift my head, eager to share with these women who have become such a welcoming place for me. Eager to receive all the Lord has for us this morning. Eager to be generous.
For me this is a place where it is easy to be generous. Where I walk in feeling like I’m brimming with insight and joy and expectation, and leave just as full as ever I walked in, full of new insight and joy and anticipation.
Another day, I sit in a different circle, and my heart breathes that prayer quiet, Lord make me generous. Here it is not so easy. Here I do not always leave feeling affirmed and encouraged. Here I often feel misunderstood and marginalized. It is not easy to be generous.
Weeks later, I sit in my living room alone and feel that familiar pang. The sting of being misunderstood and alone. That homesick longing for “my people” rises in my heart and I’m tempted to wish those if onlys. And the Lord reminds me again that he can make me generous.
He, the very same God who did not spare his own son, but gave him up for us all, how will he not also along with him graciously give us all things?
Jesus. Very God of Very God. The God who became a man and gave himself for us and for our salvation.
Though he was misunderstood and marginalized.
Accused and brutally murdered.
Generously. Gave Himself.
And while the pang is still fresh in my heart, while my eyes still feel the sting of tears as I think of familiar people and comfortable places, I feel his hand gentle around mine, carefully prying clenched fingers open. The generous king making me generous.