Reflection March 21
Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose. Philippians 2:12-13
I remember a couple years ago when I took our eldest son, Asher, out on a date. I was actually redeeming a coupon he had made at school and brought home to me, a little slip of paper with a promise for one-on-one time. Before we walked to the car, he picked me a pink rose off the bush in our backyard and asked me to wear it in my hair. He got to choose the restaurant. He picked a Chinese buffet where he promptly loaded his plate with mozzarella sticks and Jello. Of course.
We sat across from each other in the booth. I asked him about school, his teacher, his classmates. He asked me what I thought his dad and brothers were doing at home. We ate the soft-serve ice cream in quiet company, and then it was time to pay.
“Mom,” he began, “Dad told me that it’s not really a date unless the boy pays for it. He said it’s not really a date if you pay for it yourself. So, I was wondering, can I pay for the food?”
I started to reply, “That is really sweet, buddy. But I don’t think you have any money—”
He cut me off, “You can just give me your credit card.”
I was tempted to laugh out loud, to tease him, to say that him using my money didn’t solve the problem. But something stopped me. I got out my wallet. “Sure,” I said, handing him the plastic silver rectangle.
We could have talked all day about the logistics of whose money it was or the good behaviors required when going on dates. But right then, all I could see was myself, holding my own empty hands out to a loving Father, wishing there were something of worth that I could give.
Asher walked up to the cash register and proudly handed them the credit card. He took the receipt and handed me my fortune cookie, and we left the restaurant. We walked hand-in-hand to the car, smiling.
We can only give what we have been given. The disciplines we undertake and the good works of our faith, the salvation we work out with fear and trembling, they are all graces given to us. And so are the times we fail—the times when the disciplines fall short, when the fast is broken, when we say the unkind thing, when we look the other way, those are graces, too.
For just as we need the reminder that God does fill us with good things, we also need the reminder that to receive, our hands must be open and empty. It is God who works in us—to will and to act. His love provides our motivation and the opportunity itself. His lovingkindness allows us to please him.