BY LEANN DILBECK –
Wanting to do for others, to serve others, to encourage and uplift others is a blessing, right? David and I are big believers of ‘love in action.’ Whether it’s for a family member, friend, or for a complete stranger, we all have the opportunity each and every day to do a kind and thoughtful deed that wasn’t asked for, and we shouldn’t expect anything to be reciprocated or for recognition. It’s great in theory, until someone takes advantage of your generosity. When those kind deeds become more of an expectation rather than the gift of love they are intended to be, the sweetness of the gesture becomes bitter.
I was a million miles away and only in the passenger seat as my husband drove. I kept going over and over in my mind the millions of reasons my feelings shouldn’t be hurt. I felt I had poured into a friend and been the kind of friend I would want to have. Instead of feeling good about being able to do for them, I was more hung up on a scorecard I had kept on how they had missed my expectations. My head knew it wasn’t right, but my heart couldn’t help but feel like my generosity had been taken advantage of. Then came the words, “Something on your mind?” Words I’m sure 30 minutes later he regretted because that’s the only encouragement I needed to open the floodgate of emotions I had been trying to keep locked up. He listened patiently, as he always does as I proceeded to chastise myself for feeling the way I did, for keeping the scorecard of continued poor decisions they had made and inability to put God first in their life. Self-righteously, I questioned why they would keep making the same (in my opinion) poor decisions, expecting a different outcome. I said that I trusted that His Word would not return void, but clearly, questioned that truth when a lifestyle wasn’t transformed as I had hoped. And then I confessed, it selfishly made me not want to invest in anybody but my close family.
My sweet husband then lovingly explained that we don’t do for strangers ever expecting anything in return but when we do continuously give to someone considered a friend, it is different… and it does become much more personal. The challenge is not to allow those hurt feelings to stop us from those loving acts. There are “givers” and “takers” in the world and to know which category our loved ones fit in will help us tailor our expectations. If we were perfect, we wouldn’t have those expectations, but as fallible people, they creep up from time to time. May we always keep Philippians 2:2-3, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others,” close to our hearts.
We can’t just claim to love without selfish ambition or vain conceit. The true state of our hearts isn’t revealed until we not only put but KEEP our love in action. Instead of being tempted to grumble and close ourselves off, as a follower of Christ, we aren’t given that luxury. Our call is to put His love into action — with a clean heart.
We must pray faithfully for God’s direction when we see a need, for His guidance to know if we are to intercede personally or on our knees in prayer, and trust Him and His masterful ways, timing, and plan with it all.