Do you remember being in college receiving the syllabus that outlined the essays you’d have to write for the semester? If you were anything like me, you’d have all the greatest intentions: starting early, doing all the necessary research, and pacing yourself throughout the term so as to not be overwhelmed in the days immediately preceding submission deadlines. And, like me, you may have even made some small strides, like (and I’m dating myself) buying a new floppy disk, going to the library, checking out some books, or filling out a few index cards like you learned in high school. Somewhere, though, along the way, you decided that this or that was more important, and you allowed days or weeks to slip by, and when you did finally look up, there you were on the heels of the due date working like mad to pump out a quality paper before the 8:00 AM cutoff.
For some of us, we made it by the skin of our teeth. (I remember running full speed with unwashed face and sweaty pajamas toward the science building to turn in a biology final. My professor was standing in the doorway with a watch counting down 7, 6, 5…Deciding I was too far away for my feet to keep running, I took my chances with a flying leap. Flopping hard to the floor, and knocking all the wind out of my chest, I opened my eyes on his “one,” and saw him bend down with total amusement dancing in his eyes, take the paper from my outstretched hand, and close the door behind him. I’d made it, but just barely.) For others, we moved stealthily into excuse mode: “Those books you listed weren’t in this library, and didn’t you say that you had office hours set up from 9:30 until 11? Well, I showed up at 10:59 yesterday, and you weren’t there.” Still others accepted defeat, never even showing up to plead our cases, vowing to take another professor’s version of the class next semester.
For a while now, stewardship has been the tenet of faith I’ve been most prayerful about in my life. Much more than merely paying my tithes, I’ve been concerned about all that God has afforded me and how my stewardship over it either reflects or does not demonstrate how faithful I am being over my blessings. I used to be able to lie, complain, or make excuses more easily about my lack of stewardship. Now, I’m struck hard with harsh realities: “It’s you, Marilyn, falling short.” (I want to be clear here: I’m not talking about a pervasive and damaging negative self-talk. I’m talking about finally taking the blinders off and getting real with myself. There’s a time for self-compassion, and there’s a time to cut the crap and be real. And when it comes to my prayers over stewardship, God is coaching me to get myself all the way together.)
What I’ve realized is that God has provisioned me with all I need to faithfully attend to the assignments, blessings, and gifts He’s given, but He’s been waiting on me to be more reliable in my faithful stewardship. Sure, like everyone, I have moments of great accomplishment (I really did make and stick to a budget that month), but my lack of consistency and follow-through gets in the way of me really doing what He wants me to do. How much more impact for the good of His kingdom could I make if I were consistently and reliably attending to my assignment?
What typically happens is that when things are cruising along well, I tend to slack in my commitment and find other things to occupy my time. Regardless of whether those things are inherently good or bad, putting off what He would have me do causes a delay in His plan for my life. I wonder how many souls I could have helped bring to Him if I were consistent in my honoring of Him through my daily living. I wonder how much more good I could have done in the world if I would have stayed on my game and not gotten resentful or lazy or angry when I did. I wonder how many times my straying from His will caused others to stray along with me.
I thank God for always answering my prayers about stewardship: At one time, it was so easy to find other things to do with my money than pay my tithes. Now, not paying them sends waves of anxiety through me. This isn’t because I fear not having money; it’s because I fear dishonoring Him with my money. I used to question whether being a principal is the right job for me. Now, I question whether I am doing the job He blessed me with right now in the right spirit.
Faithful stewardship means managing what I have been given well and with a spirit assured of His ultimate will being done. It requires me to own up to where I’ve fallen short and actually do something to be better for Him. It means knowing, not just hoping, that God can count on me to show up in the right way each and every day, even when I don’t feel like it or understand what doing so will yield. It means taking all the resources at my disposal (i.e., time, people, finances, talents, hindsight, foresight, intuition, knowledge, etc.) and employing them to the best of my ability, learning from mistakes, and sincerely repenting and forging ahead. It means being grateful and disciplined and loving and prayerful even when it’s easier and more rational not to be.
I pray for my strength in Christian stewardship, and I pray for yours, too, Friend. The syllabus is there in His Word, and all we need to do is outlined therein. Let’s not continue to put off what He would have us to do. I pray we never come to His door finding it already closed.
“Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.” Matthew 7: 13-14