48 hours ago, you should have asked me this riddle: “How can an empty space of 10 inches by 20 inches quickly cost you more than $500?” I would have been puzzled for hours before deciding that you were either paying to advertise nothing, or you were paying to hear a politican speak for 10 minutes. I would have been wrong. The answer would be that an eleveated gap between a gate and my deck railing would be exactly what my dogs would use to escape, and the cost would be my reclaim fee from the shelter.
If you would have followed up by asking me, “How will you have more than enough for the cost?” I would have again been puzzled and finally guessed that the wind had blown someone’s winning lottery ticket into my yard. Again, no.
But that is what has happened. I don’t believe in coincidence. I believe in confirmation. The difference is in our eyes, not the event. God is always speaking, working, and moving. Whether or not it is noticed is in our eyes and our hearts.
Writing is a tough gig. Unless you are handing in an assignment to a teacher, you often do not know who will read it. Even less so will you know the impact or the thoughts of the reader. I’ve been writing since I was 10 years old. The audience started out as me, and it remained that way for many, many years. At times I would share a piece or a poem with someone, but mostly I was the audience.
A few years ago, while having breakfast with a good friend of mine, I was challenged about how I used my writing. “Our gifts are not ours to hold on to,” he told me. “God wants to use those gifts to bless others.” He was right. In fact, the idea of “blessed to be a blessing” goes all the way back to God’s promise to Abram. Making the descendants of Abraham (once God changed his name) to number more than the grains of sand or the stars in the sky was not a gift that Abraham could possibly see in his lifetime. But God blessed Abraham so that others could be blessed.
Think of it like this. Let’s see someone hands you a full cake of your favorite flavored cake. It is so large that you must hold on to it with both hands. And let’s just say there is no table, no utensils, and it would be unsafe to set the cake on the ground because you are in a field of flowers with bees and ants abounding. You’re salivating at the possibility of eating this cake because it’s just what you’ve wanted and more than what you need. So, manners out the window, you bend down to eat the cake hands-free. And just before you do, someone comes up to you and says, “I have plates, but I have nothing to eat. Could we work something out?”
Maybe. You have cake, and it is more than enough. But it was given to you. Suppose that you refuse the offer, knowing that you will not be able to eat all of the cake but no one had said anything about feeding the hungry. Person after person comes up to you with offers. One has knives. One has forks. One has chairs. One has a table. One has wine. One has cups. One has shelter. One has a guitar to play music. And yet you refuse them all. This is YOUR cake!
They all walk away hungry. And you are so busy refusing to share that you have failed to notice a line of ants has crawled up your legs, down your sleeves, and on to the cake. Now you too, will walk away hungry.
I don’t know your thoughts on God nor your heart. But I firmly believe this happens all of the time. What is mine is mine, and that means it is not yours. In the last day, people have given in an incredibly generous way to help me reclaim my dogs. I asked through a written piece. I have never had such a response to anything I have written. But you know what happened first? Pain. Loss. Heart ache. And then an admission of my helplessness. There was absolutely no way for me to pay the fee by myself and waiting would only make it higher and more impossible.
That also happens all the time. We run from God’s protective care. We become lost. Endangered. Hungry. Hurting. Messy. Captured. And unable to pay our way back to the relationship we once knew. God carved out a small space in the Garden of Eden. He said to Adam and Eve, all of this is yours, but not that fruit. It was not a matter of poison. It was not a matter of tempting Adam and Eve. The question at the root of it all was a matter of the heart.
God had given them everything they needed. Was that enough? Or did they want more and were they willing to disobey to have what they thought they needed? You know the answer. They wanted more cake. God created us in His image and that includes being free of will to love. Being willing to stay in God’s love gives you peace. It will also allow you to receive more than you ever need.
Do you know what would have happened if you had said “Yes” to all those who asked about your blessing – your cake? You all would have had a celebration! And that, my friends, is God’s design. You have been blessed. How will you freely choose to love and bless others? I have always found it easier to give to those in need than to admit my need and receive. I assure you that it is not because of my nobility. It is because of my pride. I have tried and tried to earn God’s love. Instead of the celebration I could have been having by others blessing me, I’ve received the rote gratitude given to those who did what was asked of them in the first place.
It is as if a teacher asked the students to sing a song, and I started singing louder and more off-key than everyone else. Not because I loved singing, but because I wanted the teacher’s approval. I did not harmonize.
So what’s the point? People have given beyond what I asked today. I’m floored. I’ve never experienced anything like this. I received an anonymous gift and desperately wanted to know who it was. But does it matter? Am I going to try to settle the score and pay them back, or am I going to dance and eat cake at the celebration?
God has given us all that we need and more. But it is not in our hands alone. A fork alone will leave you hungry. And, if you believe what I wrote above, even a cake alone will leave you hungry. The first thing we must do is realize that God does not stop giving. God’s character does not change. God IS love so it is not completely accurate to only say, “Yes, God loved me then.” God loved you when He put the cake in your hands, but that was only what you noticed. God is always about the business of loving you because that is who He is! If you believe that, the celebration needs that you next accept that you already have more than what you need. Why? Because that is how God works.
We are made in God’s image. God is relational and interdependent in a way we cannot begin to comprehend. God’s fullness is found in that God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. God was in relationship before we were made. This is significant, because we can otherwise believe that God made us in order to be in relationship with Him.
That would suggest that God needed us in order to be complete. That is the type of belief that leads to my pride and belief that I can work this life thing out on my own. It also completely obliterates the fact that we are made in God’s image because God loves. And, in God’s image, we will love.
You are blessed. You are loved. You have more than what you need. And yet, you don’t have all that you could have. Today I received gifts I never, ever expected. But I was broke(n). If I didn’t accept that and admit my helplessness, I would be broken-er. I don’t know the position of those who gave, how much they have or how this affects them. I just know that they realized that there could be a celebration and they wanted for us to be a part of it together.
That sounds like God to me.
I want you to know that you are loved. And I want you to know that you need more than the cake you hold on to so tightly. You cannot have a celebration all by yourself, and you cannot bless others if you only offer empty words, “I pray that you find some (different) cake!” Receive. Give. Celebrate. Love. All of those words describe my day today. I pray that they will describe yours as well.