Create in Me
I love that psalm response:
Create in me a clean heart O God.
I know an acapella song that starts with those words. There are some haunting, echo-y notes in it and when I sing it out loud, my soul is startled awake again. Soothing / enchanting / stirring.
A Generous Spirit
My word for the past couple weeks has been generosity. I’ve just returned from a week of mission work camp in Billings, Montana. The first question posed to all the campers:
What do you want to give and gain this week?
For me: a generous spirit… to give and to gain it.
So I’ve been reflecting… What does that mean? What does it look like and feel like?
Tougher than it sounds
In each moment, I tried to see myself and discern whether I was giving freely or out of obligation. Does generosity mean I simply give without question or thought? Or is there an element of discernment involved?
[We all ask this question when we contemplate whether to give our money to that guy on the street corner with a sign: Are you going to buy a beer with my $5?]
- Does this person deserve what I have to give?
- Is this organization going to reward me for what I want to give?
- How much should I give? All that I can? Or only part of what I can… be it time / energy / money / talents / skills?
So you see… altogether… it’s pretty complex. At least for us as humans.
But the command itself is pretty clear.
As made-of-spit-and-mud people we tend to throw all the if’s / and’s / but’s into that equation of self-giving. Especially for Americans there are strings attached to our generosity… i.e., tax-deduction receipts for St. Vincent de Paul drop-offs… a plaque with a name to show how much money we gave to the building renovation fund… verbal acknowledgment for all the time we spent working the parish fundraiser.
[We usually say we don’t need the recognition… but truthfully… we’re miffed when no one says anything out loud to the larger group. Right?]
But Jesus’ command is pretty clear: Love your neighbor.
It’s not… love your neighbor if you like him.
It’s not… love your neighbor if she’s a good person.
It’s not… love your neighbor if you understand their situations.
Jesus just says… Love your neighbor.
And so we have to cultivate generosity.
How do we do that?!?!
Being a disciple is really hard. And I learned last week that it’s supposed to be hard. It gets harder as you go along down the path. If it doesn’t get harder then we’re not putting ourselves in places and circumstances where we can grow.
And isn’t that the whole point of the spiritual life? To grow closer to God? To become more like Jesus?
We don’t get there unless each new step challenges us to move closer to the hard work of being a disciple.
I have been asking God for a long time: Please just give us a break. Make this all easier! Let us have some rest.
I see now that was the wrong prayer. I should be asking:
God… increase my faith and trust.
Create in me a generous spirit O God.