I have recently read Andrew Roberts' book Holy Habits. The chapter on Gladness and Generosity was one that stopped me in my tracks and made me reflect on how generous I am in the way I approach life – and others.
In his book, Roberts explores how there is so much more to generosity than being generous with our money (although that is obviously a great way to show it). He uses the term 'radical generosity' – I like that, and have been pondering how I could show it in practical ways in my own life.
I spend a lot of time communicating via email – both for work and in the roles I have in church life. Roberts encourages us to take time to think about the language that we use in an email – rather than rushing it, to really think about how we can add in an encouragement.
One of the ways I'm being challenged to be generous to my family is to not always point out the times when they forget to pick up after themselves. Working from home I see ALL the mess, and can get very frustrated – but often that means I overreact.
I've also been reflecting on how we can live in a way that takes up Paul's challenge in Romans 12:10: "Be devoted to one another in love. Honour one another above yourselves." It's the 'above yourselves' bit that I've been contemplating. Perhaps I could think about the lifestyle and loads of those I serve on teams at church with, and sometimes offer to take their place on a week I know they are really busy. Obviously there needs to be a balance – working ourselves into the ground because we are too busy caring for others and ignoring our needs is not what the Bible teaches – Jesus reminded us of the second Commandment: 'Love your neighbour as yourself' (Mark 12:31, emphasis mine).
Honouring others above ourselves could be as simple as taking the time to listen as they talk about themselves and what they are going through, rather than butting in to either show how we are also having a hard time, or because we think we have helpful advice. Waiting until they have finished, and giving them the space to offload, brings them honour – while taking the focus off of ourselves.
I spoke about time in my last column; learning to be generous with it could entail looking at our weekly priorities. Perhaps we could occasionally use one evening, which is usually taken up with an activity focused on our own enjoyment, either to invite someone else to join us, or to replace that activity with something that reaches out to another.
Generously offering our time could also simply be listening out to those little promptings of the Holy Spirit, and stepping out and acting on them – even if the suggestion does 'put us out' by impacting on our own plans for the day. If we keep remembering to pray that prayer I have found so life-changing, 'God, please order my day', then we may be surprised at how he still enables us to achieve what we need to, even when we give over time to unexpected connections with people.