Our greatest fulfillment lies in giving ourselves to others. Although it often seems that people give only to receive, I believe that, beyond all our desires to be appreciated, rewarded and acknowledged, there lies a simple and pure desire to give.
– Henri Nouwen
Most of us believe that to mark this world, we need to do something big. We need to pastor a large church, get published, or establish an orphanage in a third world country. We are so grandiose in our sense of what counts as significant. That is not the Jesus way.
But faithful givers have a way of marking our lives. I’ve had more than a few saints you will never meet that have impacted my life because of their giving lifestyle.
Let me tell you about my deacon.
When I moved out of my parent’s house into my first apartment, I was assigned to his deacon family. He took that seriously. He was a strange and wonderful man. The term “geek” was not used back in the mid-seventies, but if it had it would been how I would have described my deacon. He had a pock-marked face and a bulbous nose. He was a large a portly man with narrow and sloping shoulders. When he smiled, which he did a lot, he had a gap between his front teeth.
In those days, I was in my rebellion. The only reason I attended church was because my mother said I could come to the house for Sunday dinner if I came to church. And every week it seemed she made a pot roast, rolls, and peach cobbler.
My deacon knew I was troubled. (Dad was my pastor and he and the deacons probably prayed for me in deacon’s meetings.) My deacon would write me notes and tell me he prayed for me. He would seek me out when I came to church. He found out that I loved sports, so he took me to Denver Nuggets and Denver Broncos games—many times. That cost him time and money to do that.
All the while I lived a prodigal life. I was living in complete defiance of Jesus. But my deacon didn’t give up on me. He kept praying and showing up in my life in any way he could think of.
Finally, in 1978 I rededicated my life to Jesus. Back in those days, that was a big deal. My dad always offered an altar call in the church he pastored and so I walked forward to make my decision public. The first person to grab me and hug me that Sunday was my deacon.
You will never meet him. I don’t even know if he is still alive. But that goofy, geeky, awkward deacon marked my life.
My deacon’s name was Clint Spearman. We named our second son Clint.
Our culture, country, and town will be changed not through legislation, rules, and winning the culture wars. Up there will not come down here by returning to the values and lifestyles of the 40’s and 50’s. The Kingdom will come on earth as it is in heaven when we follow Jesus in his incarnation lifestyle.
The late author and speaker Brennan Manning tells an amazing story about how he got the name “Brennan.”
While growing up, his best friend was Ray. The two of them did everything together: bought a car together as teenagers, double-dated together, went to school together and so forth. They even enlisted in the Army together, went to boot camp together and fought on the frontlines together.
One night while sitting in a foxhole, Brennan was reminiscing about the old days in Brooklyn while Ray listened and ate a chocolate bar. Suddenly a live grenade came into the foxhole. Ray looked at Brennan, smiled, dropped his chocolate bar and threw himself on a live grenade.
It exploded, killing Ray, but Brennan’s life was spared.
When Brennan became a priest, he was instructed to take on the name of a saint. He thought of his friend, Ray Brennan. So, he took on the name Brennan. Years later he went to visit Ray’s mother in Brooklyn. They sat up late one night having tea when Brennan asked her, “Do you think Ray loved me?”
Mrs. Brennan got up off of the couch, shook her finger in front of Brennan’s face and shouted, “Jesus Christ—what more could he have done for you?!”
Brennan said that at that moment he experienced an epiphany. He imagined himself standing before the cross of Jesus wondering, Does God really love me? and Jesus’ mother Mary pointing to her son, saying, “Jesus Christ—what more could he have done for you?”
The cross of Jesus is God’s way of doing all he could do for us. And yet we often wonder, Does God really love me? Am I important to God? Does God care about me?
And Jesus’ mother responds, “What more could he have done for you?”
For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. John 3:16
We are never more like God than when we give.