Blog Template Theology of the Body: "God will not be outdone by your kindness"

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

"God will not be outdone by your kindness"

This is the time of the year when we are most struck by those who have given to the uttermost.

For instance, the phrase above- "He will never be outdone by your kindness"- appears in the footer of every email sent by a certain little nun who works at a university Catholic Center in Boston. She is one of my dearest friends; and she is also one of the most beautiful women I have ever known. She is from an old and noble family in the Middle East. When she answered the call to her heart to found her religious order, her family denounced her forever. When she left her country years ago, before the Iraq War, she knew that she might never see her family again; and in fact, her leaving her home to minister to students in the U.S. resulted in her bishop's ordering her never to contact any of her relatives for the rest of her life. You see, this sister has given to the uttermost.

I have not done so, but I have had my moments. So this is my little story. I was eighteen, freshly baptized, headed for lay missionary work, and enthusiastically ready for ANY sort of renunciation. So there it came: a series of revival services at a local church, an urgent call for funds for some sort of building campaign. I wore a beautiful gold bracelet that my grandmother had given to me, that her mother had given to her, that had been exquisitely handcrafted in the manner of a traditioanl Nairobi design especially for her when she fell in love with Africa as a young woman. It was a little thing, but it was precious; it represented my memories of my storied grandmother's adventures on safari, our tender conversations, my father's love for Africa, my own tentative forays into that continent in their footsteps. But the bracelet was valuable, and God's work needed money. Off came my heirloom bracelet, and into the collection plate.

Years passed. A full decade later, I began to think constantly of that bracelet. To be honest, I wanted it back. My grandmother died five years ago, and I miss her deeply; and that little bracelet has come to represent my own memories of people and places in Africa that I have known and loved. It started as a tentative little prayer several years ago; I wanted my bracelet back.

This of course was ridiculous. I had put the bracelet in an offering plate. The people and structures that had recieved my bracelet ten years ago had probably come and gone, and the church had probably pawned and profited from that random piece of jewelry. But just for fun, several days after this past Thanksgiving, I looked up that little church and phoned them. Did they know anything about a funny little gold bracelet that had appeared in their offering plate ten years ago? "Oh, no," they said. Hardly. All donated items of value were to be pawned as soon as possible. Furthermore, the church's staff had since changed hands. As expected. But later the same day, a sudden phone call: "ma'am, we have found a bracelet that matches your description on the floor of the church's safe. It must have been overlooked- it was hidden all this time under a pile of papers. You can come and pick it up this week."

So after a decade, I have my bracelet back. He will not be outdone by our kindness. Nor, apparently, will He lose that which we have entrusted to Him.