Practice the Art of Giving - It’s a Beautiful Thing

It has been well over a decade ago, but I remember it well.

Vanessa and I had just left the James V Allred Unit, a prison in Wichita Falls, Texas, where we were visiting an incarcerated relative. On our drive back to Dallas, our home at the time, we marveled at the uncanny afterglow we felt.

It made no sense – we had visited a man who had been in prison for well over 10 years. We had been searched and processed in in order to visit him, and all we could do was buy him some vending machine snacks and talk to him for a very limited amount of time before the guard ushered us out and escorted him back to his cell (after strip-searching him). That time had come and gone so quickly, and he thanked us for taking the time to visit him.

We in turn thanked him for sharing so freely with us, and we meant it.

But it felt so good.

There is an indescribable joy derived from giving to someone who cannot “give back,” at least not in a tangible way.

One of the unexpected offshoots of marriage is that Vanessa’s giving nature has “rubbed off” on me, and vice-versa. At least I hope so. It may be wishful thinking on my part, but I believe that God has made each other better human beings through balancing my yin and her yang and making them complementary.

I have come to believe that it is part of God’s design, that couples were designed to make one another better in marriage. For one, it might be softening up the hard spots. For another, it might be toughening up the soft spots. For both, it amounts to Lessons in Love.

Hebrews 10:24 tells us: “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.”

Vanessa and I both take joy in helping others, but what so many people don’t realize is that the giver is very often the one who receive the greater reward. The word of God affirms that truth!

Acts 20:35 quotes the Lord Jesus when it says: “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.’”

Jesus was right, of course. (He’s God – of course He’s right!)

I have also learned that generosity begins at home.

I got home just this evening from a productive but challenging workday.

Vanessa’s day was probably as challenging as mine, but she still greeted me with a kiss and a smile and asked if I wanted some food warmed up. Of course I did – being tired has never been an apt substitute to quench my appetite. She warmed up a delicious meal for me and then retreated to the bedroom where she was still working.

That’s the spirit of giving that I believe the Lord truly appreciates. Putting one’s own interests and pursuits aside to help someone else. Small gestures of kindness can turn a person’s day around!

Being generous to your spouse – going that extra mile – not even when you don’t feel like it but especially when you don’t feel like it – piles up extra brownie points without a doubt. Giving selflessly to one another sets the stage so that when problems come up, spouses can more freely give each other the benefit of the doubt. Spouses don’t sweat the small stuff and they can forgive more readily because of a firm foundation that has been laid with bricks of kindness, and grace, and love.

Giving should begin at home. We can give to our spouses in simple but powerful ways, including our words, our actions, our expressions of love and affection, and our attitudes. Our spouses deserve words of confirmation and genuine compliments for things they do well.

In 2021, there were more than 61 million married couples in the United States. Spoiler alert – not a single one of them was perfect. Not one.

God calls us to be givers, and for those of us who are married, that should begin with our spouses. It doesn’t always have to be grand gestures. I have a tendency to be a night owl and Vanessa is very often in bed before me. One night not long ago I sneaked her car out, filled it up with gas, then took it to the car wash and cleaned it up a bit. She was of course surprised and delighted the next day and she let me know.

It really didn’t take a lot of effort on my part. Plus, it slipped my mind to mention to her that I might have rewarded myself with ice cream while I was away. (But that’s neither here nor there.)

My small act of kindness made my wife smile and that was reward enough for me. It made her feel good – and that made me feel good.

Giving without expecting anything in return is in some sense a moment that brings us closer to the personality of God Himself. Think about it – Who He gave for us – His only begotten Son – is the ultimate expression of love in a universe that is full of the wonder of creation. But He did that for you and for me. The old song I used to sing in the Baptist church of my youth still rings true today – You can’t beat God giving, no matter how you try.

Our incarcerated relative has long since been released from prison. He’s had his troubles but he’s a doting father now and he’s never returned to that life that landed him behind those lonesome walls. He told us that our visits meant the world to him, that they brought him hope in a place that is so often designed to sap that hope right out of a person. It was our honor to serve God by giving of our time to him, and those visits blessed us. It is far better to give.

Starting in our own households, let’s practice the art of giving. It’s a beautiful thing.

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