I’m raising a daughter. The terrain is often hazardous to my health and everyone I live with. Navigating emotions and hormones and strong wills to shape a young woman who knows her God and knows her place in the world is right up there with the most gruelling, but significant, work of my life. The most confronting part of it all is understanding the critical role I play in giving her a role-model, being that ‘someone’ who has walked these tricky pathways in the woods and has learned –and is continuing to learn – how to master them.
Unpacking what it means to be a woman in the 21st century and a follower of Jesus Christ is hard enough without an audience, but our children are watching us very closely, so an audience we have. I’m becoming more and more conscious of the processes and decisions that have gotten me to where I am, so that I can, in turn, be helpful in guiding this young life that God has entrusted into my care.
One of those values that I’m seeking to unpack for her is the value of a generous spirit.
Proverbs 11:24 says,
“One person gives freely, yet gains even more; another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty.”
The life of one who gives without measure, with a free heart, without needing recompense, without calling in favours, without keeping record, without hidden agenda, is a life marked with prosperity and blessing and abundance. Who would not want that life? Mean-spirited people hold back, obsess about personal boundaries, contain, avoid acts of generosity, gather to themselves, don’t share, shut out, invest in only themselves and find a quick road to loss and lack.
The obvious illustration has to do with money. Nothing exposes the heart faster than being challenged on what you do with your money. But our financial management is just fruit on a much larger tree – the tree of a generous heart. So, money is the furthest thing from my mind as I write this. I desperately want to teach my girl how to live in big, internal spaces, because I believe her calling is large and I want her to learn to fill the space of her calling. And for that, she is going to need to learn to live out of a generous heart.
That sounds pretty abstract but it actually boils down to really practical, everyday things that model an attitude my daughter can emulate. It’s as simple as not complaining about doing the housework, being patient with my children, giving lots of time to others, forgiving easily, hugging freely. It requires me to ‘not sweat the small stuff’, to be happy to absorb someone else’s sharp edges, to assume the best in people’s behaviour towards me, to pick up other people’s slack without whinging. It manifests as flexible boundaries, compassion and understanding, laughing out loud, going out of my way to help another. It means not being precious about my possessions, freely sharing them, being quick to praise others, and happy to serve.
And mostly it means that I need to draw from the generous, tender heart of my Heavenly Father, who keeps my tanks full, so that I can find the strength and resource to give so freely.
In learning how to live out of a generous heart, I’m determined to cut a wide path for my daughter to follow. When she learns to walk in it, she will be breathtaking to behold. We’re both a work in progress but I’m convinced that what lines this path is blessing and abundance, and revelation of our need for Him and His ever present help in time of need.