Updated: Jul 24, 2020
"Touch your neighbour and say, "It's giving time!" (crickets). All my church folks know that the atmosphere can get really tight and uncomfortable at the mention of those eight words. The offering segment can make you cringe as if the loan officer you're avoiding is making the offertory appeal. During this moment, the 'amen corner' urgently puts up the Baptist finger, almost in unison and makes their way to the restroom. Two shakes after that, about three-quarters of the congregation either needs a drink of water or has to take an urgent phone call. You'll already know, I began imagining how this scenario is parallel to real-life relationships and not just romantic ones either.
As the offering pan passed me and I observed what we call 'gift-giving', I smiled to myself, though I'm not sure for a good reason. I realized that sometimes 'we' can be just like that pan. Being passed from hand to hand, but not everyone, we make contact with deposits or leaves something tangible. Several thoughts raced through my mind. Chief among them was how I could begin to limit 'what' goes in and 'who' gives into my symbolic pan. Women are known as 'receivers', and what we are given is often multiplied. I'm learning more each day that that can be positive or negative.
Stop allowing yourself to be passed from person to person, only to have them place their 'value' on you.
I remember one guy told me, "Girl, you think you the best thing since sliced bread!' I know this comment was meant to hurt me in the most condescending of ways, but I looked him square in the eye and said, "Oh, you didn't get the memo? No?" Then let's welcome, Sis. Shady LaBelle to render a selection titled "If you don't know now ya know!"
What you really giving a tenth of?
"Will a man rob God?" (Visitor mumbles: "They not talking to me. I don't go here!") Tithing in the church world means that you give 10% of your earnings. This, of course, is not to be confused with your offerings (the gift given beyond the tithe). Although they both go into the same pan, the tithe is said to be sacred to God. It's presumed to be voluntary but for those who are deep-rooted in the Christian faith, it is viewed as compulsory. It made me wonder, who within your circle continuously robs you of your worth or 'tips-out' on you when an appeal is made?
Ten percent of one-hundred means nothing if you already have a deficit.
In this scenario, the tithe is not my focus as much as where the tenth comes from. Your income, for this purpose, we'll call 'gain from investments'. So I ask, what is the source of your character or identity income? Where does your direct deposit (thoughts) come from? Who signs the cheque that, when cashed, is credited to your self-worth (how you see yourself)? When you have given a tenth (your time) to the entity you deem most important (your God), who gets an 'offering' from the remaining 90%? Exactly how responsible are you with that 90% you're left with? Meaning, do you ensure that your bills are paid (e.g. the people or things that need you most get your attention, i.e. your kids, family, goals, etc.)? Better yet, if you see that you're running low on funds (you're having one of those days), where do you burrow from (seek encouragement)? And if you burrow, what's the repayment interest rate?
Though these questions are more figurative than literal, I am sure you get the point. I once read that if you treat your 'time' as 'currency' you're less likely to waste it. Surprisingly, I'm learning there are a whole lot of folks who have little regard for money. Hence, many of us are out here just 'killing time'!
"Come on musicians, give us some giving music!" (aka the hype beats) Seed-time in the House of the Lord means giving an amount of money with the expectation of reaping the same. That said, if you look at seed-time from a farmer's perspective, it's not much different. These tillers of soil refer to it as a period of sowing or a season for development. But what does seed-time mean when it comes to your life? More importantly, what kinds of seeds are you letting sink into your soil?
Where value is not clear, waste is inevitable.
Individuals tend to give more attention to the things they treasure. Think about it, you treat the stuff you pay for differently than things you've made no contribution to. From my seat of observation, it appears that many persons don't put much thought into or place value on the money they drop into the 'pan'. As I looked more closely, I could see phalanges rummaging through wallets and purses, bypassing all the 'big bills'. When they finally land on some loose dollars, they're scrunched together and thrown in without a care. Look, I'm not advocating you give the equivalent of your rent money. I just know if you'd asked bae for some cash, there would be some consequences and repercussions if you only receive a few crumpled dollar bills. Case in point, don't let external parties place their 'value' on your 'worth'. Honestly, even you treat a $1 bill very different from $100.
The interactions in most relationships are usually planting seeds-whether you are aware or not. If we take it back to the church example, people sow seeds based on three perspectives. They are either considering the kind of harvest they expect to yield and give based on how good God has been to them, or they don't care one way or the other. With those variables in mind, are you 'good ground', a place for tangible contributions or merely the place to throw the fragments?
"Now come on you'll, dig deep and give God your best!" (translation: no dollar bills please). Bahamians, my people, we love a good party. We like being invited and feeling, we're elite. Oddly enough, when we get to the party, we follow the unspoken rule and show up without a gift. Now think about that. An individual goes to the trouble of having a lavish spread, outfitted with the decor to create the perfect ambiance. Not to mention fine cuisine, libations, and the hottest DJ. Then there you come, waltzing in empty-handed, ready to eat, drink and be merry (FYI-guilty). I don't recall having a party, but I can only imagine it's not a good feeling for the host. To me, this scenario plays out in relationships too.
Some persons show up to the 'relationship party' with nothing (looking pretty and smiling) but expect to feast at a lavish buffet table. Sound's like a case of 'The Little Red-Hen' to me. When you get down to the nitty-gritty, what's the point of just being eye-candy or a trophy? A car with a nice body but no engine means the car serves no purpose! You need to bring something substantial (the essential part of anything) to the table. Meaning, ensure the 'gift' will be useful to the receiver. Don’t let it be something the person discards or re-gifts because they can't find a proper use for it. In the same way, you can’t expect to just reap the benefits of someone who spent time cultivating themselves nor should you allow people to deposit less than what's 'useful' into what you took eons developing.
Asset vs. Liability
"Now, we've come to the time in the service where everyone can take part!" (whole back row rolls eyes).
This is the chapter of the story when you 'should' reap what you sow. One of the spiels most preachers say is, "You can't plant corn and expect carrots." In my mind, "No, duh!" Nonetheless, the act of giving dictates that what you put in the offering pan will be increased. The thing about sowing and reaping is that it automatically enforces the law of nature. That law being 'whatsoever you sow, you will reap'. I think non-church folk would call it karma. In my mind, though, what you' plant' is one thing, but what is 'implanted' into you is totally different but equally important.
Stop planting your corn in accordance with someone else's rain.
Ironically, this rule doesn't only apply to significant others but also those platonic friendships, which I think are the worst ones. As a church girl, there were moments in my life when I wanted to fit in or 'be just like everyone else.' My eureka moment came when one guy in my group of friends pulled me aside and asked, "Why are you here? This isn't a good look on you.' While my girlfriends might have been okay with me shaking the goodie-two-shoe persona, others could see I was the one that didn't belong. So like they say in church, do a row check. I mean, if your circle's looking iffy, then move to a different table. Ask yourself this: 'When a flower fails to bloom, do you blame the flower or its environment?'
You reap what you sow
Please leave your neighbour alone and repeat after me:
"The struggle is real but addiction to the chaos has been discontinued."
While you may want your peeps with you on life's journey, some can't go for the ride. I don't care how much mad love you have for them or if you'll go way back to the womb. Hear me when I tell you, guard your heart. My instructions manual on life warns me to protect it at all costs because it flows the issues of life. You are no one's piggy bank! Stop letting friends, family, random folk and the dude you decided to tie your soul to put their spare change in you. While spare change can come in handy and adds up, all of us know after a while that mess gets heavy and weighs you down.
Now listen, in the name of all that is good and decent, don't go reading to deep into all this. Take the parallels for what they are and leave it at that. I'm not here asking for your tithes and/or offerings. This is simply about what you let in rather than what you give out. There is a difference between you and the 'pan'. You get to choose who ‘gives’ to you and who doesn’t.