A few years ago we were working on a book cover and our designer came up with a great idea. We were trying illustrate the concept of a blessed life and he decided to use a variation on a familiar image. He creatively placed a glass of water on a mirror and then poured water into it until it overflowed. The final cover showed this beautiful picture of a glass that was so full it could not contain all the “blessings” being poured into it. It was a metaphor for a life that was so blessed that it could not help but bless others.
Recently, I was thinking about that image and realized perspective really matters when you are looking at pictures. For some people, a cup running over portrays abundance and for others it portrays waste and overflow. In some parts of the world, having more than enough is hard to imagine and yet you will still meet people in these places who live lives of abundance and their generosity spills out on everyone they meet. While perspective matters, it is really all about the attitude of the heart. Proverbs 4:23 says, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”
Airplane travel is a great place to see these principles on display. Many people these days come prepared for whatever they might need on the flight given how little is offered for free by the airline. Some come with full course meals in their bags and some just have candy. It is interesting to watch those that are naturally inclined to share and those that are conspicuously concerned about eating it all themselves. More often than not, the sharing people end up in interesting conversations. On the same plane, space is often at a premium and people are likely to get bumped. It is amazing to see what comes out of a mouth when a shoulder is inadvertently nudged in close quarters.
One of our best family stories happened one Christmas day in the late 1970’s on the island of Trinidad where we were living at the time. It was Christmas morning and we were gathered around the Christmas tree to open presents when we heard someone knocking on our front gate. Who could possibly be stopping by on this morning of all days? My parents quickly discovered that it was another missionary working for the Operation Mobilization ship program who had arrived early and had no place to stay. Somehow, he had our name and address and showed up hoping for a kind reception. My mother is a person of great creativity and a heart of abundance and quickly got to work making him feel right at home. Amazingly, she also found a way for us to put a present or two for him under the tree. For a family of modest means, this was a little like Jesus with the fish and loaves. As children, we were learning that giving from little can result in joy unlimited.
As an adult, I must confess that I do not always live from this perspective. It is far too easy to be concerned about whether I have enough than to think of others that have so much less. One way that I have begun to change this perspective is to always have a book on hand to give away. I got this idea from George Verwer, the founder of Operation Mobilization, who has probably given away more books than anyone alive today. It is especially gratifying to give away a book that has touched my life in some meaningful way and to see how it blesses others. This Christmas I will be striving to allow the Holy Spirit to change my heart of stone into a heart of love that flows out to those I encounter every day. You never know who might knock on the door this year.