Memos from the Middle

Smack-Dab in the Middle of Living

Learning about Stewardship

“You can’t be a principal rolling in a minivan.”

I smile politely and change the subject. I’ve never been a car girl. In fact, I’ve never been the kind of girl who needed luxury brands to define or validate me. As a wife and mother of three, I have a lot more important things on my mind than whether or not my car choice meets with someone else’s vision of success.

But if I’m going to be totally honest, I have to admit that sometimes I am covetous. While I may not value or even desire the latest brand name handbag, I do compare myself to others. Thoughts like, “Wow, she published that novel when she was just 25!” or “They went on a two-week vacation,” slide into covetousness when I look about my real life circumstances and see lack: “I can’t even get these blog entries out daily,” or “We never even had a honeymoon.”

As I continue to work on and pray about bettering my stewardship, God is showing me how dangerous comparisons can be. When I compare myself to others, it’s hard to be grateful. If I am struggling with gratitude, then I’m probably struggling with giving because it’s hard to give if I’m only seeing what I don’t have. It takes a pretty strong person to perceive deficits in her own life and not be compelled toward selfishness, fall into a state of depression, or try to keep up with the Joneses.

Stewardship, or the careful and responsible management of what God has entrusted us with, requires us to recognize the uniqueness of our purpose, even if we don’t quite know what our purpose is. When we are obedient to purpose, regardless of whether our purpose is clear to us yet, we operate from a mentality of generosity and surplus: we give more money, time, empathy, forgiveness, love, and a host of other things, too. We perceive the innumerability of our blessings. We understand our divine place and that what we have allows us to accomplish what God chose us to do at the time he wanted us to do it. Most importantly, though, when we steward well, God gives us more to steward, requiring more giving, and there is so much more joy in our lives. None of this can happen if we spend our time coveting or comparing.

I think about the “minivan incident” from my principal-in-training days when my daughter asks for name brand gym shoes and an iPhone. She talks about the lack of branding or recognizable logos on her clothing or accessories. She shares conversations her peers have had about who has what and who doesn’t, and I realize she’s getting older because there was a time when neither she nor her classmates even commented on these types of things.

“I want to be clear,” I say in a moment of controlled annoyance. “It’s not my job to buy you that stuff. God didn’t bless me with you or you with me so that I could go broke buying you that stuff.”

“But Mom,” she counters, “we can afford it.”

“First of all, let’s stop speaking French. We can’t afford anything. Your father and I can afford it, but buying it is irresponsible on our part, and we don’t care to spend our money that way.”

“Moooommm,” she pleads.

“Let’s just say that I drop a thousand dollars on the gym shoes and phone that you want.” Her eyes light up at the possibility of her desires coming to fruition. “That means that the lights, gas, water, and car payments don’t get paid. Or maybe we just don’t pay the mortgage to the house. Or maybe you and your siblings have to give up your school and the activities you love because I won’t be able to pay the tuition. Are any of those alternatives worth the shoes and the phone?”

“No,” she concedes with a sigh.

I give her a kiss on the forehead, tell her that I love her, and send her to her room to finish getting ready for school. I head to work and sit for a few moments longer than usual in the parking lot gathering myself for the day ahead. I reach for my cell phone remembering the dings I heard as I drove in. I read a text message from a friend who shares how much my latest blog entry meant to her. My husband has also texted to remind me to give him the two songs I want to dance to at the Mother Son dance next weekend so that he can turn them in at the school. I smile at God for reassuring me about the futility of my own covetousness. I don’t have a best-selling novel, but someone out there was inspired by my little blog. I may not have been able to take a honeymoon, but God gave me someone who for the last 20 years has worked so hard to love me, make me happy, and partner with me on life’s journey.

I slide easily out of my dusty minivan and walk into the building. I thank God for the opportunity to lead this school. It isn’t easy, but it’s what He wants from me right now. One of the preschool kids wraps her arms tightly around my legs as I unlock the door to my office. I never saw or heard her come up. I look down at her huge smile and bright eyes, and I know that something that I am doing means the world to her. I return the hug, knowing that little heaven-sent moment of joy tells me that I’m stewarding well, and I get a little more pep in my step to meet the challenges of the day.

Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.” (1 Peter 4: 10)


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