Giving and giving would be considered the same as consecrating our time, talents, energy and everything we have, wouldn’t it? It’s something we’re supposed to do, something we’ve been commanded to do, and something the Lord has promised us blessings for doing. In her essay Pressed Down, and Shaken Together Rebecca Walker Clarke expresses a desire to learn how to be like the stream from the familiar primary song, to give selflessly. The stream of giving has taken on a different personality in my mind. Instead of gently bubbling along, encouraging me to give like Jesus, it has become a swirling current that threatens to drown as I try to give and give.
Right at the beginning of her piece Rebecca talks about forcing her daughter to share while on the contrary she carefully checks the caller ID before picking up the phone to make sure it’s not someone who will need anything from her. Perhaps this image stuck with me because I have done the same and lately I’ve been struggling with how to share my time. I often feel spread thin, strung out, tired, fatigued, overwhelmed, frazzled, wiped out, beat. In fact, the other day when my friend came to meet me in the park to pick up her two kids that I’d been babysitting all day, she said to me, “Heather, you look like a mad woman.” It wasn’t until that moment I realized I had left my house in a not-clean shirt, with not-clean hair (since I hadn’t managed to shower before the little darlings arrived), with yesterday’s not-removed make-up half on. I still had my wits about me enough to feign humor and say with a smile and a laugh, “Well I feel like a mad woman.” She may not have read through me, but the Lord looketh on the heart and he knew that I was saying it in a passive-aggressive way, hoping she wouldn’t ask me to watch her two kids again any time soon. Ironically at that moment she said, “Would you mind if I just run to the grocery store real quick to pick up some food for dinner and go pop it in the oven before I take them home?” She offered to share the meal with me, which was perhaps what prompted a resentful yes, because let’s face it, preparing my own meal after a long day of childcare is a fate worse than an extra half hour at the park with the four kids I’d already spent the day with: a 14-month-old, a 16-month-old, a strong-willed 4-year-old, and an emotional 3-year-old. Anyone who has ever taken care of children can probably imagine my lack of energy at that point.
However this is where my confession starts. Even if she hadn’t offered to share the meal with me, I still would have said yes, because that’s all I know how to say. Years of membership in the church hearing lessons about service, giving, and Christlike love, have conditioned me to say yes no matter what my circumstance. I say yes first then try to work out the details later. I have been taught that if we take care of others and give selfless service, we will be blessed with peace and joy. How is it then, that the promised peace and joy is sometimes so hard to detect?
I do want to help. It’s just that the line between doing enough and doing too much is murky. Sometimes I can’t see it at all until I’ve crossed it and I’m desperately reaching back to the other side hoping someone will be standing on the shore with a life preserver to toss me. A life preserver that phones the people I’ve now decided I don’t have time to help. It should be very diplomatic, knowing how to back out of commitments without hurting anyone’s feelings, and most importantly, saving me from the feeling I’ve let somebody down. Unfortunately this doesn’t exist. Once I’ve crossed that line, I give and give, oh give away my energy until I’m dog-paddling down that little stream, and finally find I’m floating on my back in the waters of obligation I’ve made for myself that come lapping up, making it difficult to breathe.
The answer to all my questions has got to be the gospel, the Savior’s everlasting Plan of Happiness. In opposition to our society always telling us to: “Take care of yourself first,” the Savior showed us the example. When his disciples were trying to protect him from the multitude of people, although his stomach may have been empty, his feet likely aching and weary from walking, he chose to let the people come and be near him so he could meet their needs. He did give and give . . . away. And he invites us to do the same, but with His help, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden . . . Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me.” Then He promises, “I will give you rest . . . and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30)
I believe those promises; I’m trying to have faith in them. He will certainly help us help others. He will keep us from drowning in the giving stream. But I don’t always know how to access or reach for the lifeline He longs to give me.
I have no doubt there are many of us flailing in that current. But I’m hoping someone can tell me how you allow the Lord to help. Have you felt that begrudging grumble after having made an effort to give of your time, talents, and energy? Have you been able to give freely and feel that promised joy and peace?