I’ve made it tough on myself lately. I’ve been choosing to write about topics I know I struggle to understand and act on — things I hoped to change through the transparency of writing. So far, I’ve found out it isn’t that easy. Last week it was empathy, and I took some heat from my wife and a friend of the Catch, Robert from Seattle, who thought that my anticipated new personal embrace of empathy over the week never happened. Ouch! He was right. Oh, I wrote some great thoughts about empathy, for sure, but I didn’t necessarily become a noticeably more empathetic person from the experience, like I thought I would.
Take last Friday’s Catch on my wife, “In Marti Fischer’s shoes,” as a case in point. That was supposed to be my crowning piece on empathy after a week of writing about it. I was supposed to get in Marti Fischer’s shoes and see what she sees. Turns out it was just my observation of Marti (a very good one, I might add), but just an observation. I was supposed to see the world through her eyes, instead, I saw Marti through my own eyes standing, not in her shoes, but in my shoes, somewhere near her. That’s about as close as I got.
Thank you, Robert, for reminding me I’m probably not going to change a lifetime of wrong thinking in a week’s time. It’s not like I can study empathy for a week, take the test, and pass. I have to take this class every day.
Same thing goes with giving, another sore spot with me. Once again, I can write about it — I can teach the Word on it — but that doesn’t mean I’ve got it or I can live it. I’ve heard it said that when a preacher raises his voice, he’s talking to himself. I think I’ve been shouting a lot lately.
When it comes to gracious giving, I have to look elsewhere for examples. I grew up in a family where every single expenditure was like pulling teeth. So how could you give graciously at church when you never learned how to do it anywhere else? Like recently I took Marti out to dinner and we were having a splendid time until the bill came, and I made some thoughtless comment like, “Well I hope we had a good time,” as if to put a price tag on the experience, or reduce our wonderful evening to a number on a piece of paper. There was nothing gracious about that!
I must say, however, that my wife encouraged me with a couple evidences of a giving nature in me that I didn’t know I had. One was a piece of art I designed and made back in high school from scrap metal I picked up from the yard during a remodel. It was an abstract rendition of the Lord’s Supper I gave to my parents for Christmas. It occupied a prominent place on the wall of our family room for years until my mother died and my father moved out of that house. I must admit: that was a real joy to work on, and to give. Then she reminded me how freely I give myself whenever I speak and/or sing — how I dedicate myself totally to both the preparation and execution of this without regard to honorarium or the size of the audience. (Marti wishes I were a little more conscientious about this when it comes to providing for the needs of my family!) Perhaps I could borrow some of this attitude and apply it to money matters, which is where I become stingy.
But on our Catch Ministry board is a man who has given in numerous ways to the Catch and every time has been with grace. Never have I felt put upon, or judged, or shamed in any way. The gift is given, period. It is not held over me. It does not come out as a side comment somewhere else. Here is a man who is practicing both empathy and gracious giving, because he empathizes with us in all the ways receiving can be difficult, and makes sure he avoids every one of those innuendos that can ruin the gift and the relationship. He is the epitome of not letting your right hand know what your left hand is doing when it comes to giving.
So I have a ways to go. Good thing I have some excellent examples to learn from.