Freely Given

Freely given.

That’s the thought that’s been tumbling around in my head for the last couple of weeks.

Freely given.

I recently took a group of Scouts to an event at the airport and at the end of the day a local bakery was on site giving away free loaves of bread as a promotion.

Just bread.  Not cookies. Not candy. Not cake or doughnuts or anything fruity or frosted or sweet.

Just bread.

And the boys lost their minds.

They were so excited about it – some tried to hide it in their backpacks and go back for 2 or 3 more. Some held loaves triumphantly over their heads, boasting to their buddies as if they’d found some valuable treasure.

But it was just bread.  It was good bread, but really, how good can bread be, especially just an unadorned loaf of sandwich bread?

But I loved the enthusiasm.  It was fun to watch.  It was fun to listen to them talk about it so excitedly.  I wanted to be part of that enthusiasm, and I was, but sort of peripherally and not fully joined in because I couldn’t quite figure out why they were so excited about bread.  We’d just spent an entire day climbing around all sorts of incredible aircraft: Boeing 737s, military helicopters, a fighter jet, older chrome-clad single engine marvels and a super cool home-built personal helicopter and they weren’t talking about any of that.  They were talking about bread. Over the next few days I’d hear comments from their parents about this marvelous bread.

Why were they so excited?

My hunch? Because it was freely given.

There was no catch.  There was no test.  No barrier, no hurdle, no expectation. They didn’t have to deserve it or earn it or behave in any way other than to hold out their hand and accept what was being offered.

They were full of joy from something as simple as that.

As much as faith has shaped my adult life, I get uncomfortable when I try to talk about it.  I’ve spent the last 25 years in careers that I’ve entered largely as acts of faith, first as a Chaplain’s Assistant in the Army and then as an IT person for the YMCA.  Both came from a leap of faith and just a simple desire to serve. I’ve been a member of many different churches and for sometimes too-long periods of not attending any church at all.  But underneath all that I have faith because once upon a time I caught a glimpse, a taste, an awareness of a God that loves us and from time to time I catch that sense again.

It’s hard to talk about faith because there can be so much baggage with this discussion. So much vulnerability. So much expectation. So many pre-conceived notions. So much tendency to embellish the speech with “thee” and “thou” and flowery or ornate passages of scripture.  So much possibility of hearing “you should do this” or “you should do that” or “you’re not doing it right” or, worst of all, hearing that I’m not really a Christian because I didn’t go to the right church or act or say or wear what the other person expected. That somehow I was not properly earning my way to Heaven.

But my faith is as simple as this: I’m not here to earn my way to Heaven. That’s already been taken care of.

It was freely given.

My sole task is to truly accept that idea in my head and in my heart and to remember it every day.

My only challenge is to do everything I can to get any “me” – any selfishness or greed or fear or anger or lust or resentment – out of the way so that same love can work in me and through me for just the simple reason to share that love with others. To bring love and hope and healing to a world that seems to be crying out for love and hope and healing and connection.

It was freely given.

And my faith, my hope and my desire are to simply accept and share that gift with the same joy and excitement as a teenage boy receiving a loaf of bread.

It’s as simple as that.

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