A woman I know, a longtime family friend, lost her husband recently in a devastating freak accident.
They weren’t newlyweds, but they had decades together ahead of them. They’d had two children together, now in or just out of college, and lived a happy, loving family life. The loss was sudden and striking and awful.
And there in my mailbox yesterday, only about two weeks after the life-altering loss, sat a card from her. A bright, cheerful, happy card with a gift inside, wishing my husband and I well in our new home.
I boggled. Yes, I was the flower girl at her wedding and yes, she’s known me for most of my life. But I’m not a family member. I am the adult daughter of a good friend of hers, whom she sees on the occasions I visit home and attend church with my family. Simply put: I’m largely insignificant to her general life, and immensely insignificant in this time of pain and loss.
And yet there was the card. A card that a grieving woman left her house to buy, in order to celebrate a happy occasion for someone else during one of the darkest experiences of her life.
It was a Christlike act.
And I say that because I think it’s easy for us to lose the significance of what Christlike acts are. Sometimes when we’re super-extra-nice to people, or we do something nice for someone we don’t know all that well, it’s easy to get self-congratulatory. Look at me, we think. I’m being just like Jesus.
And it’s true that doing nice things for people and being super-extra-nice to them can be a Christlike act. Absolutely! But Christlike acts are also, at their heart, inherently sacrificial and giving in a way that merely “being nice” is not. When Christ healed people, when He taught them, when He gave, He was sacrificing time and energy and effort that He could have spent on Himself. In the Garden of Gethsemane, He poured Himself out in anguish over the sacrifice He didn’t desire to make–and yet, in the end, made anyway.
I say all this not to point the finger at anyone but myself. I’m still in the process of getting over a cold that I’ve had for what seems like a month now, and beyond my “regular” duties of work and household life, it hasn’t occurred to me to do anything for anyone at all – not until I’m “well” and have the energy and effort to spare. It’s a natural and very human way to think. But that’s not what sacrifice is. That’s not what Christlike giving is, nor Christlike love.
Rather, Christlike giving is to give what we can at all times – wherever we are, however we feel, regardless of circumstance. Receiving that card from my mother’s friend reminded me of that. The most extravagant giving often comes from places of lack, and the gift receives value not from its own existence but from the spirit in which it was given.
In the future, I’m going to remind myself that the times I feel least able to give are probably the circumstances in which I can give the most.