Nothing Left to Give
As the costumed group approached our yard, it was clear that we wouldn’t have enough treats for all of the kids. I scrambled in the front door and up to the kitchen where I dug out the few candy bars from our stash of personal favorites. I ran back and tossed them into the the basket, just as a group of 8 or 10 children arrived at the door. Even with the sacrifice of sweets we had hoped to savor later, we barely had enough to give something to each child.
Then, with 30 minutes still remaining of the ‘official’ time frame for trick-or-treat, my husband and I had to turn off the porch light and shut the front door. We had nothing left to give.
The reason we came up short was not that we had started with too few candy bars. It was that I gave away too many, too soon.
The evening had started slowly, with only a trickle of kids coming to ring our bell. It seemed that we had more candy than we needed, so I began to give two or three bars to each child. I saw abundance, so I gave away with abandon.
As the demand increased, our supply couldn’t keep up. Before long, our basket was empty. Instead of welcoming light, a friendly greeting, and a gift, our home presented only a darkened doorstep to children making the rounds of our neighborhood.
That empty basket represents much more in my life lately than just Halloween.
As a wife and mom, I am keeping up with the calendar and getting the “have-to’s” done. But I’m weary and worn, with the highlight of my day often being bedtime (mine). My serving and teaching have lost a bit of their spark. I even sense this lack of something to offer at social events and holiday gatherings. Coming up with a costume, making that fun themed dessert I found online, or entering into a silly game just feel like more than I can give.
As I look into the eyes and listen to the words of other women, I think many of us are emptying our baskets too soon. We each want to make a difference in our corner of the world. At first, we think we have more than enough to offer to everyone. Generously, eagerly, we give away our time, our ideas, our organizational skills, our knowledge… until suddenly there is little or nothing left. It feels like the only option is to press on and get through whatever we have already obligated ourselves to do.
Where have we gone wrong in our desire to serve and love? For me, it comes down to three errors in my thinking:
1. A false assumption that if I have plenty, I don’t need to monitor my resources. I fail to look ahead to future demands, or leave enough in reserve for the unexpected. If I have lots of time and energy now, if there is any blank space on my calendar, I say way too many “yes’s”. For a time the pace feels comfortable. And then one day I find myself short of time, short of physical energy, and dangerously short of emotional peace.
2. Failure to take into account where I have the most to give. I tend to jump in wherever I see a need. I don’t stop to consider where I am gifted and where I am not. As a result, I am not only overloaded by the number of commitments I make, but by spending time on projects I am not particularly well-suited for. An unintended consequence is that I end up serving in places where someone else would shine. I cheat them of the chance to use their unique gifts.
3. Forgetting to listen to Jesus as I make decisions. If it is a good cause or organization, I assume that a “yes” to a request for my time is predetermined. I forget that good is not the same as best - for me, or for the other people involved. Neglecting the habit of bringing decisions, big or small, to God in prayer means that I miss out on those cautionary whispers He speaks to my heart.
I can’t do anything to remedy the Halloween that is past, but I can learn the lesson it had to teach me. I can keep in mind the way the trick-or-treat traffic stays steady or even increases through the night, and avoid handing out too much too soon.
In the same way, you and I may not be able to lighten our calendars and give ourselves more margin right now. But as new requests come our way, we can take that crucial pause…
…to consider our resources against not only current demands, but possible future ones as well
…to carefully assess our abilities and passions, to see if the new opportunity is a good fit
…to consult our Savior rather than make our own plans and then ask him to bless them
We don’t have to deplete ourselves in order to honor God and love others. After all, it was God who created the concept of Sabbath, to provide us with the rest He knew we needed.
You and I are resources worth protecting. The more carefully we choose how to give of our time, energy, and ideas, the more brightly and steadily our lights can shine for those who need what we have to give.