I began a new spiritual practice about 33 years ago – six months after my wife and I were married. I didn’t want to engage in this new practice, but my wife did. She had just heard a sermon about proportional giving, and she suggested that we sit down at the kitchen table, add up our combined incomes and then figure out what percentage (proportion) we were giving away. It wasn’t much, less than one percent. She said we should raise the percentage, with the idea that in a few years we would reach a ten percent tithe, which was the challenge in the sermon.
I resented the exercise and the prospect, not to mention the whole idea behind it all – because I felt that I had already done my giving by being ordained, a choice which meant that over time I was leaving a lot of money on the table compared to what I may have earned in another line of work.
But my wife prevailed (we were newlyweds, after all), and we significantly increased our percentage. Then an unexpected thing happened. My resentment went away – well, not entirely, but it was no longer front and center. By giving more we both discovered more of God’s abundance and blessing. It was a counterintuitive practice, and certainly a countercultural one.
That spiritual practice, which began three decades ago, has been – and continues to be, a major doorway in opening my soul up to God’s grace. It was not an easy practice to start, and over the years it has not always been an easy practice to keep. But I have learned that giving out of abundance is a major antidote to the temptation to insulate through the widely supported habits of hoarding and protecting. And I have discovered that giving out of abundance is the gateway to gratitude and generosity.
Sacrificial giving is an ancient spiritual practice. It opens us up more to the presence and activity of God.
It is one practice out of many. I invite us into the practice of sacrificial giving, which not only opens up the soul, but opens up to the discovery of God’s handiwork in our lives and in the world.
Recently a member of Diocesan Council suggested that we invite people to engage in a new spiritual practice called “Grace Quest.” A verbal play on MapQuest, which before GPS systems took over was what many of used to get from one point to another, Grace Quest involves being open to where God shows up and what God is up to, and then sharing that story with others.
You can write up your Grace Quest – perhaps illustrated with photos, or capture it on video. Grace Quest is meant to be an antidote to our many duties and distractions, which flood our psyches, fill our calendars – and often keep us sealed off from what God is up to.
Like proportional giving, the practice of Grace Quest can serve to protect against the creeping tide of resentment, and open us up to the joy and wonder of gratitude and generosity.
Do you have a story to share about where God has shown up and what God is up to in your neighborhood? To submit a Grace Quest story, please contact Nina Nicholson, Director of Communications & Technology.