Thoughts on guilt, generosity and loving the people in front of me….

This morning in my newly discovered start the day with a cup of coffee, Bible, brief chat with God and a bit of Henri Nowen (first time In 4 years I’ve managed to find a spare 5 min in the morning 🙂 I read this:

“One person gives freely, yet gains even more; another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty. A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed.”‭‭ Proverbs‬ ‭11:24-25‬ ‭

Immediately my brain flew to Guilt. That great duller of all activity and joy in life. Guilt acts like a blanket of blergh. A great bog of the mind designed to leave us paralysed and think we are helpless. Urgh. Although, thinking about it, true guilt is ok because it leads us somewhere wonderful if we listen – confession, restoration, fresh hope, wonder and relationship. False guilt leads no-where. We end up in the big pile of stinky muck known as shame. From there it seems harder and harder to feel ok. Darkness claws deep. Hope is as elusive as the morning mist. 

Anyway. Leaving aside my rambling thoughts about guilt and shame. I felt a huge pile of it when I read those verses this morning. I felt the weight of expectation that I should be doing more. More helping others. More generosity. More hospitality. All lovely things in and of themselves. But I was thinking of them as activities I had to do outside of my regular everyday life. Seen like that they become burdens I can never carry and expectations I can never live up to because I am a finite being with finite time.

Something shifted in my mind when I started to think about treating my husband and children in the way these verses talk about. Or the people I encounter each day, be it other Mums at the school gate or friends I have cups of tea with. These verses become less of a list that I should do to random strangers and more of a way to live well amongst the people I know. Refreshing others sounds wonderful. I would love my children, husband, friends and others to be refreshed and to be involved in that process. Weirdly though I think it doesn’t count if it’s just people I hang out with all the time. 

I don’t know where this guilt of not doing enough comes from. I seem to have absorbed a really negative mindset from somewhere that doesn’t see our family as neighbours to love. It might be from hearing voices over the years caution about not making children the centre of the world (a voice that clearly doesn’t allow for the reality that loving and investing in your children is a vital job). It might be a voice that sees others as more important than your family because focusing on family must be introspective and exclusive. Urgh. 

These voices are lies and clever lies at that. Children aren’t the centre of the world but investing in them, loving them and pouring out grace on them isn’t going to teach them that. You can get really introspective as a family and not include others but if you aren’t loving each other well there will be nothing to reach out to others with. 

I guess, as well, some of the guilt comes from a deep desire to be more hospitable and welcome others in but I know that we are limited people. Husbandface’s job is intense and takes all his people energy. He is barely awake some weekends to engage with us let alone anyone else. We seem to be in a season of small. Our church family has scattered and with no definite new church to pour ourselves into there are less opportunities for relationship. Friends who have been part of our family have moved on from Brighton with no immediate replacements obvious to us. We want to hold onto the other families we share life with and that takes time. 

It all takes time. So maybe I should lift off the guilt these verses presented with me this morning and remember that my immediate family need my love and generosity. My children need my focus in helping them navigate their emotions and desires. My family needs my care and patience rather than my blanket of blergh feeling because I am not doing things I’m not being called to do at the moment. 

We are in a season of small and the Maker is very real in the midst of small, putting value on how I speak to my children, in how I think of my husband, in how I treat my friends. I put my guilt in the bin and long to act with generosity and grace to those in front of me today. 

(These thoughts have been floating around my head since reading this article along similar lines.)

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