Some kids got off a plane last night and stumbled into our church at midnight. They had just flown back from New Orleans, and in the midst of the ongoing reconstruction efforts, these kids were there to help host a summer camp for the children of displaced families. They were led by Nick and Marisa Dyson, our youth pastors. I’m a pretty big fan of just about everything they do.
As the announcement was made this morning about their safe return, I felt a pang of sorrow. See, when the announcement was made a few months ago that they were planning the trip, Gretchen and I decided that we wanted to give some financial support to the team. Nothing big, just a few thousand dollars out of the petty cash fund we keep lying around the house as “mad money”. I realize this means one less week of lounging around by the pool in Cabo, but sometimes kingdom work requires sacrifice.
Then, a few weeks ago, when they announced that they were in the final stages of their fundraising push, I had that forehead-smack moment of forgetfulness as I realized that we hadn’t made our donation yet. I reminded myself to do that right away.
Then, this morning, when they announced that team was back, I had that huge “Dooh!” moment. The best of intentions … the poorest of followthrough.
It wasn’t my forgetfulness that caused me grief this morning though – believe me, if I got upset every time my brain sprung a leak, I’d be perpetually goth. And I don’t look good in black eyeshadow. Trust me on this.
On some level, it didn’t make much of a difference. The team hit their fundraising goal, they made the trip, the kids in New Orleans had a great week, and I’m sure our kids walked away with some new green shoots on the growing sapling of their spiritual … Ok, I kind of lost myself in that metaphor somewhere. The point is, my lack of participation didn’t really impact the work that was done.
My sorrow this morning wasn’t that the team didn’t have our $100. It was that something good was done this week, and we weren’t a part of it. We wanted to be, felt the tug of God to be, intended to be, but we weren’t. We missed out on a chance to participate in mission. It reminded me all over again of something that I say often, but rarely acknowledge in actual practice – the act of giving is an expression of our need, not a fulfillment of God’s need.
We need to give, because it reminds us that we are stewards and not owners.
We need to give, because it makes us participants with those who go.
We need to give, because it is the most immanently practical way to break our slavish devotion to materialism, to consumerism, even if only for a moment.
We need to give, because it is an expression of faith in the providence of God.
We need to give, because the rallying sign of the kingdom is not a clenched fist, but an open hand.