Growing up, and as a young adult, giving money/time to charity, church, or to help others was like pulling teeth. I did it … reluctantly. My now teenage daughter, though, gleefully had a garage sale to raise money to get 25 Christmas presents for less fortunate kids. My sister and brother-in-law are joyous foster parents. My stepdad and mom gladly pour their lives out for the sake of others. My wife generously goes the extra mile in caring for people. And I’d like to think I’m following suit. Why? It’s all about shifting from a “got to” to a “get to” mentality…
In one of the Bible’s books of wisdom, Ecclesiastes, the author has a couple of seemingly pessimistic refrains I find helpful in this regard: “Meaningless! Meaningless! Everything is meaningless!” and “There is nothing new under the sun.” The Hebrew word that’s often translated as “meaningless”, or “vanity”, more literally means, “vapor” or “fleeting”. The author is emphasizing that our lives fly by. Simultaneously, though, our experiences, possessions, etc. aren’t new. Our struggles, triumphs, and ordinary moments aren’t unique. What is more, the atoms that comprise our bodies are billions of years old, and have been gifted to us by stars, plants, rocks, other humans, animals, and so on.
Think about all your possessions … what’s going to happen to them when you die? Your house, clothes, car, computer, TV, furniture, clothes, books, decorations, and so on will go to someone else. Likewise, each breath is a precious present from plants. In much the same way, each day we rise from our slumber is an experience GIVEN to us, as who of us knows how or when we’ll pass away? In a very real sense, we truly own nothing in this life. It’s all a gift.
What these lines in Ecclesiastes speak to me, then, is: Life is a gift. Everything is a momentary gift to be savored and shared!
1 Timothy 6.17-19 echoes this sentiment:
As for those who in the present age are rich, command them not to be haughty, or to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but rather on God who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, generous, and ready to share, thus storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of the life that really is life.(New Revised Standard Version)
Many reading this likely qualify as rich, in that you don’t have to worry about food, shelter, or clothes andhave money for leisure (not to mention one can also be rich in Love, intelligence, beauty, kindness, joy, courage, vulnerability, etc.). Part of what I believe St. Paul is getting at in this passage is: What spirit guides your life? What energy directs your efforts? With that in mind, he invites us to shift from a spirit of owning, achieving, winning, commanding, perfectionism, and correcting (“got to” mentality), to the energy of gratitude, celebration, sharing, joyousness, grace, and kindness (“get to” attitude).
When I was mired in the funk of being a reluctant giver I viewed God as the former (all about perfection, ownership, achievements, winning, etc.), so what flipped the switch for me was learning and experiencing our Creator as joyous, kind, celebratory, and giving instead. We truly mirror whatever we worship!
A really juicy part of this is when we make this transition from believing we’ve “got to” get, keep, accumulate, compare, win at life, and so on, to trusting we “get to” share, celebrate, help, encourage, listen, and such, life becomes energized, blissful, and amazing (or, as Paul writes, we “take hold of the life that really is life”), because, as we say in my yoga school/tribe (Blissology): Kindness is happiness.
It seems to me a common metaphor we talk about in yoga gets at this blog’s theme from a different angle. Each of us is like a drop of rain falling toward the ocean. The falsehood this tricks us into believing is that we’re separate, independent, special, and in it to win it. The Truth, though, is we are drops of rain from(and eventually in) the ocean: Connected, interdependent, part of a team, and in it together.
Now, don’t get me wrong, “got to” thinking isn’t bad or wrong. In our youth (literal and metaphorical) we need rules, regulations, strictures, reminders of what we should and shouldn’t do, and guidance on what we “ought to” do. Young people need the law to shape and form them to be good. Laws can only take us so far, though. An essential part of “growing up” (again, I’m speaking both literally and metaphorically) and having the most incredible life together is shifting from surviving under the commandments of laws, to thriving as a conduit of Love. I don’t know about you, but I expect the journey of growing up will last my whole life. Still, day-by-day, in small and sustainable ways, the Spirit guides me from a “got to” mentality into a “get to” attitude, and life is better for it!
Grace and peace,