Saturday, May 12, 2012

An Abundance of Muffins

Last week, I was making muffins for a group of about six or seven people. Most muffin recipes make two-dozen muffins, so that’s about what I was expecting from this one. Guess how many it actually made?

Over 60. No, really. That’s a 3:1 output-to-expectations ratio for those of you keeping score at home. When do you ever get three times as much as you expect out of anything? We almost ran out of dorm-kitchen counterspace to put all of the muffins. Since we only needed to keep a few, we handed the extras out to people who went past, whether we knew them or not. There was a pretty high demand, since most college students seem to forget what homemade baked goods taste like in between breaks.

Everyone could have seconds. Everyone could take one and bring it to their roommate (although I suspect a few people’s “roommates” were a fictitious ruse to sneak an extra muffin). Seeing all those muffins lined up there, warm with the chocolate melting and making the lobby smell so good you wanted to eat the air, I couldn’t have been happier.

And I realized that I want my life to be characterized by an abundance of muffins. I never want to be rich, but I want to live on a lower percentage of income so I can give away whatever I can. I want to be able to tell people exactly what they mean to me while they’re still alive to appreciate it. I want to spend time with others and enjoy getting to know them.

Sometimes I struggle with being generous with my money, praise, and time, but mostly, I am a giver. It just comes easily to me.

But most of the time, I only want to give, and I refuse to receive. It’s a strange, holy-looking kind of pride where I dodge compliments and hate asking for help and never want to admit when I’m hurting because I’m afraid I’ll be a burden on someone. And it keeps me from living abundantly.

Here are two things I know are true:

1. God has given me an abundance of muffins. Once, I made a list of all the adults (and some of my peers who I really look up to) who have invested in my life and challenged me. It was really long. “Too many people love me!” I informed my roommate, which, stripped of its context, got recorded in the infamous blackmail document. But, really, it’s true.

And those people have been incredibly generous. They have affirmed my dreams, listened to me when I needed it, taught me how to think for myself, and praised my accomplishments. Some days, I am weak and insecure, God seems very far away, and I don’t feel very lovable. But even on those days, I have this incredible gift: I can see God’s love in the way people around me have loved me. Not everyone has this. No, probably only one in a thousand people have this.

Because I’ve been given so much, I feel like I need to give to others, which is, of course, straight out of the Bible. But I shouldn’t jump so quickly into give, give, give without doing one basic kind of giving first: giving thanks. I need to allow myself to bask in what God has provided without feeling guilty. Otherwise, it will be duty that motivates me and not love.

When do I three times as much as I expect? All the time. It’s called grace, and I have to remember not to take that for granted.

2. God is an abundance of muffins. The first realization told me what I should be doing, the second tells me how to do it. He has “given us everything we need for life and godliness” and “gives generously to all without finding fault” (2 Peter 3:18, James 1:5). But if I have a hard time taking from other people, I have an even harder time taking from God. I still want to give to Him, to prove my worth as His daughter, to be constantly working for the kingdom.

The problem with this is, God doesn’t need me. But He does want me. This is an easy truth to write and not an easy one to understand. On my highest days, I imagine that I’m so spectacular that “well done, good and faithful servant” is already inscribed on my award plaque. On my lowest days, I wonder how God could use me and wonder if other people even like me.

I think I have a hard time with this because I’ve forgotten to be like Mary and sit at Jesus’ feet. I’m too busy working, doing, and trying to simply hear God say, “I love you” and believe it. I know in my head that God is the source of love, wisdom, strength, and everything I need, but I don’t like to take it because I’m too focused on doing everything myself.

This is what I want to learn over the summer. At the advice of one of my professors, I’m taking Ephesians 3:16-19 as my summer passage, where Paul prays for something that I always thought was a little strange: that the Ephesians would understand Christ’s love. Now I’m realizing why that’s so important. Pray for me if you think about it.

Once, someone read John 10:10, “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly,” and compared it to a bubbling, overflowing fountain. For some reason, that picture just didn’t work for me. Big deal, there’s a lot of water. What does that have to do with me?

Now, when I think about abundant life, I see a counter-full of muffins and a bunch of happy college students. That’s abundance. And in order for me to do what brings me joy, giving, I have to be willing to receive first.

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