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Spiritual Training Cycle: Surrender (wk. 4/13)

In April of 2005 I did something silly. In fact, some people might consider it downright foolish. Before I share, please don’t be prompted by these words to go out and try this yourself. In April of that year, I took on the challenge of an Ironman Triathlon. Triathlons come in various shapes and sizes. Ironman is like climbing a high mountain range in Tibet. You begin with a 2.4-mile swim, followed by a 112-mile bike ride, capped off with a marathon. See, I told you I was a little nuts. The event was incredibly well supported with tons of volunteers and aid stations to fill both water bottles and souls. At the halfway point on the bike, I pulled over for a routine stop to fill my bottles. Unbeknownst to me, my arrival coincided with the meal delivery for volunteers. The next thing I know, there’s a huge cheese pizza sitting on the table in front of me. The look on my face must have said it all. I’ll never forget the three words she said, “You want some?” My hands were wrapped in cycling gloves and covered with sweat so that sweet volunteer fed me that slice of pizza with her own hands. As I rolled away, I knew the second half of the bike was mine, because I was the recipient of some incredible generosity.

God’s grace is expressed in us through generosity. In fact, I would say that grace and generosity are almost synonymous. When we choose to be generous, we’re really choosing to extend grace. Here are three things I learned about generosity that day on the bike. First, generosity is voluntary. When the pizza hit the table, the objective was clear – feed the volunteers. At no time was she under any obligation to offer me a slice. Some might consider this a random act of kindness, but I would challenge that and say I don’t think kindness is random. Spontaneous, yes. Unplanned, that sure was. But I think all generosity is fueled by grace therefore it may not be as random as we think. Generosity is voluntary.

Second, generosity doesn’t change your circumstances; it changes your attitude about them. I still had 56 more miles on the bike. I still had a marathon after that. I was still sore and somewhat fatigued. My circumstances didn’t change. But my attitude sure did. You can get scientific and say it was the carbohydrates, I think it was the whole experience that picked me up. Have you ever had someone be so generous you just can’t stop thinking about it? That was me for like the next 40 miles. It helped me see the back side of the race with optimism and confidence. Generosity doesn’t change your circumstances; it changes your attitude about them.

Finally, generosity is not an outcome, it’s a way of life. Too many people try and measure their amount of generosity. Or they try and measure someone else’s amount to compare to their own. That volunteer’s choice to be generous wasn’t about an outcome. I wasn’t going to podium over a piece of pizza. Six pieces wouldn’t have been better than one. We need to learn to focus on the effects of generosity, not the amount. She will never know the effect it had on me. Generosity is not an outcome, it’s a way of life.

So, where’s your next Ironman volunteer moment? I promise you God puts them in front of us every day. Once you make the connection between grace and generosity, you’ll realize why you derive so much joy from being generous. Generosity fuels joy because generosity is fueled by grace.

Questions for Reflection:

Describe a moment when someone showed you generosity.

Have you ever been at odds with being generous?

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