THE GENEROSITY PROJECT 2K19
Each December, for the past handful of years, I’ve engaged with God to characterize the following year. It’s a lot more fun — and a lot more fruitful — to look to Him to define the 12 months to come than to establish new year’s resolutions for myself (as they almost always fail. Remember that one year — I believe it was 2014, considering my naiveté — when my resolutions were to lose a few pounds, grow my hair out, and write a lot more blog posts….when, in reality, I gained weight, chopped off all my hair, and completely deleted the existing blog altogether? Not only did I fall short of reaching those goals, but I went pretty hard in the paint in the opposite direction. The irony is that I was all the better for it).
In December of 2016, I believed God spoke “victory” over the following year. I needed a taste of victory, for I was closing out on a year of heart-breaking defeat and emotional annihilation. What God said was true — 2016 was victorious. It was victorious in that I reconciled lost friendships, regained emotional strength, and was refreshed in my identity in Him, God — and in God alone. At the end of 2017, my year of victory, He spoke “intimacy” over 2018. And what a year of intimacy it was; I’ll spare you the details (or at least save them for another day), but the depth of my friendships — existing, and the new, as I moved to Colorado from Washington — and my relationship with God grew in ways that have changed me forever. The things I knew about God were made tangible; his faithfulness means something different to me in January of 2019 than it did in January of 2018. I know, even if only by a sliver, more of what he truly means when he says, “I am faithful.” I know, in the depths of my bones, He means it.
In November, I first heard God define 2019. I was hoping it would be something like, “abundance” or “love” or, I don’t know, “vast inheritance” or, like “great hair all the time”, but it wasn’t. God spoke “generosity” over 2019. I don’t want to admit this, but I’ve already revealed too much of my inner workings to the internet, so here we go: I was angry. I was irritated. I was scared. “How can God ask me to be generous when I barely have enough myself?” was my immediate thought. How can He ask generosity of me when I do not have much with which to be generous? And then, of course, I was overwhelmed with, firstly, conviction (my roommates and I have been pondering a mentality of scarcity — as someone who knows God, is it possible to even think that there really is not enough to go around? I would argue: it’s completely absurd. In the spirit of staying on track, we’ll take this into another post) Secondly, God reminded me how generous he has been to me. The ways in which he has shown up in my scarcity, or my lack, or my doubt, or my confusion, or even in my selfishness, I began to count — and it is too many to number.
The day after hearing God speak over me in regard to 2019, when I was still denying what He had spoken, (“that must have just been my own thinking. God is much too kind to ask of me an entire year of generosity...right?. Oh God, please, please, anything else. Please.) I was encouraged. (Praise Him; I needed it.) A woman I met for lunch was telling me about her dream she had had the night prior: She was standing atop a hill, looking down on the village nestled at the bottom. Behind her stood an apple tree, and to the right of her, almost touching her ear, grew an apple as big as she had ever seen, hanging from the tree. Wanting to conceal it and run straight home to keep to herself, like Charlie with the coveted Golden Ticket, she extended it to a person who had just appeared in front of her before she understood what she was doing. Immediately, another apple — bigger than the last — grew in its place. She plucked it from the vine and handed it off again to another person standing right in front of her, almost as if they had been waiting to receive it. Of course, because God is good and He is faithfully generous, apples kept growing. Even to the end of her dream, she did not stop plucking one apple after another to hand off to the line of people that had come to find her to receive what she had been given.
The story of her dream ended, and she don't continue to provide an interpretation or speak to her thoughts about it, but I took it to heart for treasuring and pondered it. I do not know what God was speaking to her through this dream, but I do know what He spoke to me through her story: An apple did not grow again until its predecessor was given away. Frugality, or selfishness, or a mentality of scarcity, did not prompt another apple to form on the tree; only generosity paved the way for abundance to show up — bigger and better with every pluck.
I am holding on tightly to this dream, because, truthfully, I am still a little bit hesitant to enter into a year of generosity. The worries wane: What if I run out of resources? What if I get taken advantage of? What if I look foolish in applying radical generosity, as a member of a society that advocates individuality and self-made success stories? I have to remember what scripture says about giving, in 2 Corinthians 9:6-8: “Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”
And further, in Acts: “In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”
As we are coming off the Christmas season in celebrating His birth, my prayer is to remember what life meant for Jesus (the giving of everything, life included) — then to be generous is truly an honor if it means I get to look a little bit more like Him. And, because I am striving for transparency, I’ll admit that I’m excited to taste and see that the Lord is good. If His generosity is like the apple tree in my friend’s dream — never-ending, miraculous, and radical — then they might even be better than a Rainier honeycrisp. And nothing is better than that (let me get an “amen”, Pacific Northwesterners).