When I was a kid, my parents supported my book habit with the Scholastic catalog. Receiving that catalog was magical, and more so when the orders arrived at our classroom. On the bus ride home those days, everyone would compare what they received and marvel over one another’s books.
On one bus ride, I was sharing my spoils with my friend Cindy. She was particularly interested in this new kind of rub-on sticker sheet. They were classier stickers, nicer than adhesive, and could be rubbed on anywhere with the enclosed popsicle stick. “Can I have this?” Cindy asked.
I liked those stickers, too, which would be a new addition to my growing sticker collection. But she’d asked nicely, so I said, “Okay.”
Of course, Mom immediately noticed the missing item. I felt weirdly guilty about their absence, because sharing is good. But she drove me directly to Cindy’s house, explaining it’s okay to say “no” sometimes. Cindy gave back what was left of the sticker sheet, though she’d already rubbed off most of them. That hurt—I had a collection, and used my stickers sparingly. She’d wasted them on nothing.
I’d like to say my excessive generosity changed at that point, but I still mentally replay Mom’s “It’s okay to say ‘no’.”. Even if they ask nicely, you don’t have to give things away. Sometimes being generous is part of God’s mysterious plan, even if it’s something you don’t want to do at first. So how do I know the difference between Godly discomfort—the kind that provides spiritual growth—and things I really shouldn’t be doing? When do I hold onto my sticker sheet, and when do I share it?
The easy, and most obvious answer, is to pray about it. But sometimes I already have an answer in my head before He replies, justifying whatever I think He’s trying to reveal. This is especially true if it’s for someone else’s benefit. But there’s where generosity gets twisted. It’s not true, Godly generosity if I’m sacrificing the good He’s blessed me with. Over time, I started to believe that other people needed my time, money, and love more than I did. I generously gave not just part of myself, but all. That ultimately leaves little self behind. I’m pretty sure that’s the complete opposite of His plan.
Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?
—1 Corinthians 3:16
I’ve always considered my love for others a blessing. If I remained bound to Jesus—who is perfect and endless love himself—he will fill me with love to share with others. But… I am not God. When a human being gives and gives and gives, she will eventually run out. She’s desecrated her temple, whether intentionally or not. Even with the best intentions, this isn’t of the Spirit. God Himself says “no” when it’s against His will, but it’s really hard to hear that sometimes. And hard to say, too.
If I don’t put God first, I have nothing to give. Instead of praying about it, I’ve decided what God wants me to do. I convinced myself that if I’m being generous or helping others, it must be in His will. But sometimes it’s not. Maybe they’re supposed to get help from someone else. Maybe what they want isn’t what they need. I’ve essentially played God, which explains why I’m so tired.
I can’t un-share, just like I can’t get those stickers back. But I have to care for myself the same as I care for others. I’ll be honest—I drafted this post nearly two years ago. I was feeling pretty empty at the time, and the tank isn’t quite full yet. But I’m doing better. I’ve learned what happens when I ignore my own wellbeing, which isn’t in God’s plan at all. He loves me, and wants me to be my whole self. I can only do that by saying “no” sometimes. And that’s okay. Even if it feels weird.