I was asked by the fab 40Acts team over at Stewardship to contribute a short piece for their Do Lent Generously campaign – which is a creatively positive twist on the standard give-up-something-for-Lent routine.
My bit came out last weekend, but I repost it here, in case it gets more to sign up to the daily mailings.
“Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling-block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.” 1 Corinthians 1:22-25 (NIV)
A friend’s spontaneous laughter or tears of joy can be so infectious and cathartic (isn’t it intriguing how fine the line between the two is?), the only surprise is that we don’t do more to provoke them.
When was the last time you found yourself so overwhelmed by a shared moment that neither of you could hold yourself back? Was it a joke perhaps? – I often find the more absurd the gag, the funnier and more cathartic it becomes (for me that’s the appeal of Monty Python). Or shared relief (as when the RAC man finally arrives after the car breaks down)? Or the realisation you have more in common than you dreamed possible? Such moments can brighten a day; but they might actually revolutionise a life.
You see, deliberately trying to surprise someone can actually be an act of great generosity. I’m not talking about sneaking up to make them jump out of their skin. I mean an act of grace. Grace is always unexpected, unearned, undeserved, unconditional, unquestioning, uninhibited. In short, it is always a surprise.
Which is why the Christian gospel is the world’s most monumental surprise. After all, who could possibly have predicted that God’s global salvage-plan would be achieved by a first-century northern carpenter wandering around Judaea in poverty, only to get executed as a Roman criminal? God is seriously in the surprise business. And no one gets close to him on that front. But for those who get it, God’s surprise results in shouts, laughter and tears of spontaneous joy. Any other grace-surprises are but a pale reflection.
So you want to become like God this Lent? Why not start by doing or saying something unexpected, unearned, undeserved, unconditional, unquestioning, uninhibited, for someone else?
Devise a surprise
Most people love surprises (of the nice variety!) so plan a generosity ambush for someone today.
- Make ’em smile: It doesn’t take much to make someone feel special. A treat through their letterbox or on their desk, or an unexpected compliment, can go a long way.
- Do the unexpected: If you don’t normally cook, surprise your friends or family with a meal. Don’t forget acquaintances or strangers. Give out flowers on the bus or pay for someone else’s parking.
- Go crazy: Your imagination is the limit. You might write someone a note of encouragement every day for a week, send them on a treasure hunt, take them out for an unexpected treat or even throw them a party ‘just because’. This is the day to go all out, no reasons required.