Mon, Dec 1, 2014 1:44 PM
This past week was the week of the food coma at our house. You probably have a version of it as well. For us it starts with Friendsgiving, a Shelton tradition of having too many friends try to fit in our home to eat too much food that I’ve spent 48 hours preparing. It’s wonderful!
The next day is a little rinse/repeat action, except I get to be one of the friends who fits into someone else’s home and eats food that she’s labored over. Follow that up with the actual day of Thanksgiving madness, which involves the born-into-it family, the third turkey we’ve eaten (two of which I’ve cooked), cousins and siblings playing raucously, and probably a small side of passive aggression. I mean . . . it’s family. That’s what we’re good at, right?
Oh, and we’re not done! Friday is the “Let’s please do something low key and eat anything but Thanksgiving food” day, only to succumb to that leftover turkey and dressing while frantically shopping (boycotting) Black Friday.
That brings us to Saturday, which for our family is Iron Bowl day. That’s important because it becomes another event with its own set of food and traditions.
You get the idea. We could probably copy and paste these scenarios for the rest of the holiday season:
- Attend an event.
- Go to a party.
- Throw a shindig.
- Do it big.
- Make it awesome.
Honestly, some of the motivation of Friendsgiving for me is to give my friends a great experience and a great meal. It’s something I can do, and I’m really good at it. But if I’m not careful, I can easily fall into the trap of selfish giving. Seems a little contradictory, I know, but it’s a thing, trust me.
How many times do we get caught up in throwing parties and giving extravagant gifts—doing and doing—but never truly being for or being with someone? Many times I have gotten to the end of another party at my house and realized I never asked my guests what they needed outside of a refill. So many times I never actually lay aside my selfishness to potentially upset the perfect party and just be with someone—all-in, fully present.
God allowed me to see this side of me sometime ago: Candi Shelton, selfish-giver extraordinaire. I’ll plan a party and cook a meal, but don’t ask me to commit beyond that. Let me give to you in ways that make me comfortable. That’s really all I have time for.
Kind of ugly, isn’t it?
That’s why over the last year or so I have been praying that I will know and model what selfless giving looks like, and God has been faithful to show me. We really need to look no further than the life of Jesus, the selfless King. His is the perfect example of selfless giving and being available to others. Nothing he did was flashy; nothing was color-coordinated and tablescaped. Nothing was altogether impressive if you’re looking from an event coordinator’s perspective.
But he was available—in the smallest and often most intimate ways—to every person he encountered. He always paused when others kept moving. He always stopped to talk when his friends were preoccupied with the “important” stuff. He was available in ways we all desperately need. He was selfless, even unto death, to show the profound importance of giving of oneself, not simply of one’s things.
Unexpected selflessness is always so honoring and so beautifully useful, no matter who or what the situation. Sharing life with people and showing up for them will be etched into their hearts far more than a lovely tablescape at a Friendsgiving feast ever will. These days, when I’ve cooked the food and we’re ready to eat, I stop. I fix a plate and sit with my friends. I ask them about their lives. I ask if I can refill their tea and if I can pick up their kids when they are at that hospital visit next week. I welcome the interruptions these days, because I know, from firsthand experience, that our availability is the best gift we can give someone.
So, let’s skip the shopping madness. Let’s Share Christmas. Let’s just be with people and love them selflessly. Share a meal with them. Open your home and invite them to be with you. When we move from the individual context of doing into the relational context of sharing, we can begin to embrace the interruptions that come with being an extraordinarily selfless giver.