This one is a confession. I suppose most of them are in some way, but this one is a necessary and upfront confession.
I’ve been slacking.
For the first few years of our marriage I made my wife a cup of tea almost every night. Some days required a big cup.
My wife likes tea. She takes it with milk and sugar and she loves it from Dunkin Donuts. (So if you want to get on her good side, get it large with two teabags.)
She doesn’t go for oolong or baby white tea. She doesn’t drink it with Moroccan rose petals. She likes Lipton. She only likes Lipton…and Dunkin Donuts.
I digress. Like I said, I’ve been slacking. I only make her a cup or two per week these days. Usually, it doesn’t cross my mind. I need to do better with that. But that’s only part of my confession.
Sometimes when I make her a cup of tea, I don’t really do it for her. I do it for me.
I do it so she’ll appreciate me. I do it so she knows I’m thinking about her. I do it to make up for something I did, or didn’t do. I do it so that I can be seen doing it. Sure, it’s still generous, but it’s not really the gift it ought to be.
Sometimes I’ll make her a cup of tea and give it to her…and then I’ll find that same cup later that night, cold and still half full. I’ll take the cup to the kitchen, pour it out, dispose of the bag and with each of those actions, there’s a reaction.
“Why didn’t she finish it?”
“Did she forget it or something?”
“Was something wrong with it?”
Sometimes I can’t help but wonder if it wasn’t good enough. I can’t help but wonder if there’s more to it than a half-full cup of cold tea. Sometimes it gets to me.
“I made this for her.”
“What a waste of time and energy.”
If it’s truly a gift, I can’t let these thoughts consume me. I can’t let the seeds of bitterness take hold. I can’t worry about what happens once I hand her the cup.
If it’s my gift to her, I can only give it freely. What she does with the cup of tea from that moment on is entirely up to her. If she enjoys the entire thing and licks the cup, it has no effect whatsoever on my giving. If she takes a sip and forgets it for eternity, it has no effect whatsoever on my giving.
This is a difficult truth for us to grasp in our transactional society. Where relational equity and social capital determine favors and priorities. Where we tend to keep score and to count back scratches. Where our generosity to others is a complex reflective equation of theirs to us.
This is the way of the world and you’ll probably get by just fine repeating it. It is often the way of the church, as well. It is not, however, the way of love. In love, to give truly is to give freely. In love, that is all that is required of the giver. In love, everything else is up to the receiver.
God has given freely. From manna to Messiah. From His own Son to our daily bread. The blessings of each breath and of each day. The blessings of presence and of purpose. Each cup of tea.
Everything else is up to the one who receives the gift.