God Loves Our Not-So-Cheerful Gifts, Too

God loves a cheerful giver. Does he also love one who is crying, wiping her nose on her

sleeve and swearing at her sewing machine?

I think so.

This weekend, I sewed face masks for my closest family members and friends. And I hated every moment of it. First, because it was hard! I can make whole quilts with tiny triangles, and embroider exquisite little stitches. But pleating layers of cotton with industrial interfacing is fussy, frustrating and no fun. Getting them all to fit right on different faces is really difficult. I swore at my sewing machine and ripped out stitch after stitch.

But more so, it was sad and scary. It brought me too close to the reality that my loved ones are in danger when they just go to the grocery store. Making these masks made me feel intensely vulnerable, like I was sewing against the apocalypse and the works of my hands couldn't possibly be enough to save people. So I cried the whole time (and let me tell you, crying profusely while operating machinery never improves your chances of success). And I felt guilty for not doing this task for my loved ones with more joy. Growing up in church, I heard people say, if you do something nice but you're upset while you do it, it doesn't count. Because God wants you to give cheerfully (2 Corinthians 9:7). But now as an adult, I ask myself, doesn't count toward what? I'm grateful I don't earn God's love through my giving. His grace sealed His love for me forever. There isn't a balance sheet on which I'm trying to rack up points. Though I may receive rewards someday for my "good deeds," His love is mine right now and always. And I give -- with my imperfect motives, my weak little heart --in response.

So what if while we're giving, we suffer, we groan, we're weary, we're cranky, and it hurts us, but we give anyway? That seems like it might count a lot. 2 Corinthians 9:7 says we shouldn't give out of guilt or compulsion, but we can give out of duty, out of desiring to live righteously, to transcend ourselves. And in giving, cheer will come eventually. If I wait for it, Lord, I might not give. I'm heartened by you all, giving. To your families, your neighbors, healthcare workers, and the elderly. Giving big tips to your Door Dash delivery person and offering big prayers for those you love. Our gifts don't have the power to save anyone ultimately. We are still vulnerable. But they are an expression of love, the love placed in our hearts and sustained by God. Our gifts point others toward hope and goodness, and though we can never offer with completely perfect motives, our world would be so much poorer without them.

So God, take our gifts -- offered through tears and tedium --  and make them worthy. Make them work. Save us, and pour out your love on us all.

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