A good common test of our faith is how we give to God. That is, how well we align our lives to the agenda of God so far as it is that we live for God. And living this way is so much about giving.
Two ways we obey God by giving is what we give others and what we give ourselves—what we do to contribute to others’ lives, and what we do to invest in our own. There is a double benefit in giving to others, of course; not only do we make our contribution to them, it is an investment as well.
We can view the task of giving as traversing a balance beam—in gymnastics tradition.
If we fall to one side we may give too much of ourselves in contributing to others, and therefore miss the mark regarding self-care. If we fall to the other side we don’t contribute enough to others; perhaps we are too self-absorbed.
The task of wisdom in giving can be likened to staying atop the balance beam by contributing in others’ lives and providing adequate self-care. If we have a heart to give—in this case to others, I mean—then we can afford to begin from a position of self-care, before we set out to master our contribution in others’ lives.
1. Mastering the Gift to Ourselves of Self-Care
I often feel from a writing perspective, just to keep up with what ideas God gives me to write on, that I struggle from time to time with focus on my self-care. I am aware of it. I see evidence that my self-care sometimes lags. It is an ongoing challenge.
It reminds me that when we focus a lot on other tasks we tend to forget our own needs—those God-infused needs that prayer tells us our eternally relevant.
Every servant of God has their own needs to cater for first. They can afford to if they trust their implicit call of God—that they must serve others. The desire to serve has become so innate it is no longer a choice. If this is the case, if servanthood comes with life, then self-care is a vital milestone to be achieved each day.
What I am saying is it isn’t selfish to provide for ourselves if our overriding vision is to give to others; that is being wise. Considering the needs of the carer is critical as they provide care. The quality of our helping can be hindered by a lack of balance regarding self-care.
2. Mastering Our Gift to Others Through Discernment
If we are providing ourselves adequate self-care, and a vital one of these is prayer time, then we are adequately positioned to help others through our giving by discernment.
In our giving we should always want to meet needs. These need to be discerned.
It is no good if we discern the wrong things and give what is detestable or off-the-mark. Much of our giving may end up being a waste if we don’t endeavour to discern what is truly needed. If we are getting our self-care right it helps with our discernment.
Our discernment is also aided by our relationships, by our listening skills, and by our will to understand others beyond inklings for arrogance and ignorance. Our discernment in this way is never aided better than via a heart for others.
We serve God by giving. This is done two ways: by contributing to others’ lives, and by investing in our own. The second task of investing adds value to the first task; self-care aids discernment. We need to balance these tasks: what we give others and what we give ourselves. We cannot help others in sustainable ways if we don’t first ensure our self-care.
Standing atop the balance beam of giving is achieving a balance between self-care and discernment. We cannot discern others’ true needs very well if we don’t first ensure our self-care. We need to be relatively disciplined as we give in both areas: to others and to ourselves.
When we have our balance right we serve God in pleasing ways.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.