I was standing in the checkout line. It’s a familiar scene this time of year. The ever-growing lines at the cash registers. Carts dodging this way and that. Towering armloads weaving down aisles. Bags of already-purchased treasures looped over arms.
“Ma’am,” a friendly employee called to me. “This line is shorter.”
I smiled a thank you and obediently moved over one lane.
I watched my original line melt and reform while somewhere far ahead of me an unexpectedly lengthy transaction was taking place. I read the covers of every magazine in the newsstand. I perused the shopping purchases of my fellow shoppers. I glanced back at the employee who had waved me on. And when he nervously met my eyes, I smiled.
In this season of generosity, it’s common to think of purchasing gifts for those we care about. It’s common to think of donating money, gifts, and even time to all the organizations who need our help. This is good and important. But as I stood in that line waiting to be generous with my time and money on my schedule, it occurred to me that the true mark of generosity is not those common pillars of giving. It’s what we do in between.
I am ashamed to think of the moments this season when I have rushed across town white-knuckling the steering wheel. Or crowded into line to be one step ahead of someone else. The irony is not lost on me. During this season of giving, I’m so focused on what and where and when I’m giving, that I have nothing to give right now. There is no giving in between my giving.
And those in-between moments are just as important.
Think of all the places Jesus travelled throughout his ministry. Consider how often he stopped, not just at his day’s destination, but along the way. To heal the sick, to feed the hungry, to teach the gathering crowds. The generosity of God was not confined to a few special moments. The generosity of God overflowed His entire ministry.
As we celebrate this season, God’s generosity should likewise overflow within us. We should not be so focused on the perfect gift or that special donation that we miss all the other opportunities along the way. We should not pack our moments so full that we don’t have time to smile at the cashier, let someone take our place in line, carry a bag to someone’s car, pause and enjoy what is happening around us…
When I find myself feeling constrained and pressured, I need to pause long enough to put the swirl back in perspective. True giving is not checking items off a list. True giving expands far beyond that. True giving includes all the little moments in between.
Maybe God had me stand a few extra minutes in that line because He had something to teach me.
Janet Beagle, Ph.D. serves as director of graduate programs for Purdue University’s College of Engineering and is a writer, a Bible study teacher, and a student of God’s word. In her spare time, she likes to eat other people’s cooking and hike with her dog, Marly. Read more of Janet’s Christian reflections at www.mustardpatch.org.