As y’all may have seen from my recent Instagram post, God’s word for me in 2020 is “stewardship.” The word itself isn’t sexy or exciting – it’s not a BHAG (big, hairy, audacious goal) or something people hand out gold stars or pats on the back for.
That’s because the issue of stewardship is a vertical one between me and God, and consists of a simple recognition that everything I have is given to me by God, to advance His purpose in this world.
Becoming a “good steward,” then, means using the resources He’s given me wisely – according to God’s definition of the word, not anyone else’s. That means I’m not asking myself (Ms. Impulse Shopper), my (very wise, frugal, and Godly) husband, my (financially savvy) parents, or (even my Godliest and wisest) friends to help me determine what only God can. What’s wise for them, could be disastrous for me; similarly, what worked in the past, may require something entirely different now. Turns out being a “good steward” requires hearing God’s voice very clearly, which I’m apparently getting a crash course on this year, too.
The first thing God taught me about stewardship is just how limited my understanding of the word really is. Since I’m more of a spender than a saver, I’ve always assumed that “good stewardship” meant basically doing the opposite of what I’ve always done: that is, spending less rather than more. While I still believe that’s a wise principle to live by, and I’ve doubled down on that commitment as it pertains to spending money on myself, God has shown me that if I’m really committed to doing things His way, then how much of His stuff I use – as well as when, and on whom - is entirely up to Him. That means that if He asks me to pick up the tab for everyone at an extravagant restaurant, then obeying Him by spending more, rather than less, would constitute “good stewardship.” Again, the whole “hearing God” thing is essential to this process, as is a sensitive spirit, and a willingness to do whatever He says – even when it seems counterintuitive. Either way, the notion that stewardship can be expansive, rather than merely restrictive, is mind-blowing for me.
Another thing God taught me over the past week is that sometimes, being a “good steward” of my time and energy means putting my own goals on the backburner to serve another’s pressing need. Case in point: my two goals this year are 1) birthing a real, live baby, and 2) birthing a book. Both of these are God-given dreams that require focus and commitment to achieve (trust me, with IVF baby-making, it’s work!). On the book front, I’ve blocked time out of my daily schedule to write, and I prefer that it be uninterrupted and carried out in my home office. However, last Sunday, my father was admitted to the hospital with pneumonia and the flu – a potentially deadly combo for someone his age (82).
Thankfully, God spared his life and brought him safely home (I’d be sobbing rather than writing if He hadn’t), and I was blessed to be able to spend the week with my parents, both in and out of the hospital.
Obviously, serving my parents’ needs – not just physically and emotionally, but also spiritually and practically – meant putting my own plans aside, which I was honored to do. There’s no place I’d rather be than with them, especially in an emergency. Their pain is mine, and I love them more than life itself. But if I’d clung to a notion of stewardship that was formulaic and rule-based, rather than relational and love-based, then I would have lamented both my father’s pain and my way-laid plans. Instead, God was gracious to teach me this lesson in real time, which enabled me to be fully present with my parents for as long as they needed me, and click right back into writing mode when I returned (though my heart is still – and always - with them).
Which leads me to the third thing God taught me about stewardship: His ability to multiply anything we submit to His authority. This power is demonstrated throughout the Gospels, most famously when Jesus turns a few fish and barley loaves into a feast for the masses. In the past, I’d read and processed these miracles as mere evidence of Jesus’ deity. Today, however, they serve as metaphors for what God can do in my life: that is, miraculously multiply time, talents, and treasures, when I surrender complete control of them over to Him. This realization makes it far easier to obey Him when I don’t have what I need, to do what He’s asked of me. I’m now certain that so long as I obey Him by bringing what little I have to the table, I can count on Him to do exceedingly, abundantly more than I could ever hope or imagine through me.
So what started out as a journey in something as seemingly boring as stewardship, is quickly turning into a “whoa-nellie!” adventure in faith. God has taught me, in eleven short days, that I can always trust Him to provide, even when my own resources fall short. That’s what good dads do, and that’s the Father whose resources I’m learning to steward in 2020. I’ve only just begun scratching the surface of all that means, but if it’s anywhere as near as good as what He’s already taught me, I’m in for a life-changing year … and life.