God is Giving
Whenever I think of the old prayer-praise, “God is good. God is great,” I am particularly drawn to a magnificent attribute of God. This specific divine characteristic is the eighth word of my sabbatical - God is giving. Exodus 20:15 declares, “You shall not steal.” Behind that prohibition is a good and great God clothed with an enormously giving heart. I do not have to take from someone else what is not rightfully mine. I do not have to fret over what I do not have. I do not have to yearn for that which I cannot have. Why? Because God gave. Because God gives. Because God will give. “For God so loved the world that He gave…” I can rest content in the fact that God knows exactly what I already need. There is no other way to explain it. He provides the just right resources to every believer, every son, and daughter of the King so that we might in turn wisely steward all that He gives us.
As a part of this sabbatical gift, Sue and I are in Rome, Italy. Gracious friends have given us the gift of taking on the responsibility of house-sitting for us. Our small group has given us a generous financial gift. Our Eastview executive leadership team has given the extraordinary gift of rest, refreshment, and resources to cover the expenses of flight, housing, and food. Behind all of this gifting is a God who gives. Lest you think I live in some kind of heaven on earth utopia, or am just one more compromising believer who has rejected the cross and immersed himself in a health, wealth, and prosperity Gospel, let me tell you a little story.
I am now on my fifth day in wearing the same clothes. Well, let me amend that slightly. Last evening, after I could stand it no longer, Sue and I went out shopping in Rome so that I could have a fresh pair of socks, underwear, t-shirt, and sweater. My luggage has been missing since last Friday. The explanation from the airlines changes daily. I no longer believe anything I hear regarding my missing clothes. Because I am not a slender Italian man, I have found it challenging to find clothes that fit. When Sue asked the female salesclerk if the store sold XXL, I thought the woman was going to choke from laughter. I, apparently, am more like the large Italian opera singer, than the slender Italian male clothing model who is plastered everywhere on Rome billboards. Where those robust Italian opera singers buy their socks, underwear, t-shirts, and sweaters remains a mystery. I would guess they shop online through DXL. Who knew?
Perhaps if you are an alert reader, you may be wondering what I have done about the need to change my jeans. The answer is nothing. Each evening, sorry for this picture, Sue and I do the smell test on my jeans, and she immerses them with Febreze. Thank God in heaven for this miracle product. I will need to burn these trousers soon if my luggage does not appear in the next 24 hours. I love the fine print on the spray bottle. “Safely eliminates odor on fabrics. Use only as intended.” I am quite confident that this glorious invention was never intended to serve as my laundromat or cleaners, but it will do for now. I could be a great spokesman for them, but I am sure they prefer a slender man.
I have repeatedly been reminded of the need for ongoing spiritual formation through the parable of the lost luggage. This morning, as Sue and I prepared to tour the Roman Colosseum and the Vatican, I was reminded how this five-day experience has reinforced in my thinking the need for further “training” in godliness. I have not said one word that would dishonor Christ or had one thought that might reveal a selfish heart. In full disclosure, though, I wish I had my clothes, but I have not stolen clothes from Marco, our tour guide, who is just about my size. I have accepted whatever God desires to teach me. God is giving, and because He is, the missing luggage is not some form of punishment. Rather it is a school of soul education. I began this day with new undergarments, socks, and a sweater. God made it possible. He is extraordinarily giving. I have witnessed this attribute of God around the world.
Several days ago, while walking the streets of Rome, it began to rain, and the temperature plummeted. Sue and I were cold, so we stopped at one of the street cafes. We purchased hot chocolate and engaged the proprietor in conversation. Somehow, within the first few minutes of small talk, we discovered that he was a Christ-follower who attends a nearby Baptist church, single and struggling financially. The Italian economy is a mess. We mostly listened as he poured out his heart. He was overjoyed when he realized that we were Christians too. As we bundled up and prepared to pay for our hot chocolate, he adamantly declined. In broken English, he said, “I cannot charge you. You are Christians like me.” We thanked him. I offered a blessing on him and then gave him a sizable tip. His giving heart reflects what I am attempting to sort through in this blog post. Because God is giving, His children are too. Luggage gets lost. Some days are simply hard. Life can be wrecked with sizable heartache. There remains, however, in all of this a God who is worthy of trust and obedience, even if we are required to go another day with Febreze and the same pair of jeans. Amen.