Monday, May 12, 2014

Tupelo Tornado: giving and receiving

She was born in 1929, the thirteenth of fourteen children. When the deadly tornado of 1936 came through Tupelo, killing more than 200 people and destroying much of the town, she was only seven years old. Her home was destroyed and she and her family walked 19 miles to stay with relatives whose home was intact. 

She laughed as she told me about being the thirteenth child.  "I always said that made me lucky, and I guess it did. I've been through two tornados and lived to tell about it. At least I still have a roof over my head this time. I'd hate to walk nineteen miles now." 

Seventy-eight years later, the tornado of 2014 roared through Tupelo and almost completely destroyed her home again. Although a few walls are still standing, the house has been condemned and she is in dire need of a new home. In good health for an 85-year old woman, she is unwilling to leave the land and home she loves. 

 Fiercely independent, she has made her own way all her life. She was betrayed early by a philandering husband, left to raise two young sons by herself, and did a fine job of it. She has never taken help before, and doesn't want to take help now. Her church has been generous, but even their help has been hard for her. I suspect she's much better at giving than receiving. 

We talked at length about allowing people to help. The blessing would be greater for them than for her, I tried to assure her. She didn't see it like that. Taking help from strangers just isn't her way, she insisted. We went back and forth, but she wasn't budging. 

After a while, I ran out of new arguments, and, to both our surprise, tears started trickling down my face. "When we give to you, we are doing it for Jesus, and we want to do for Him because He's been so good to us. Can you understand that feeling?" She nodded her head as she wiped her eyes with the back of her hand. "The man who will help with your house is my friend and I trust him. He's not a stranger to me. Can't you please let him do this for Jesus?" We were both weepy as she started nodding her head. I hugged her, took a deep breath, and started looking for some Kleenex. 

Being on the receiving end of great generosity cannot be easy for one as independent as this sweet lady. She's never had much, and doesn't need much, she has tried to explain. She can make do with what she has. That's true. She can make do, but she doesn't have to this time. A portion of the body of Christ feels called to help her, and I'm not sure she can avoid it. 

Her persistent refusal to accept help that seems heaven-sent was a little frustrating, and I've been left wondering how often God has tried to help me without success because of my own stubbornness. How often has He wept over my refusal to allow Him to change my life for the better? 

How often has He longed to change your life, but was unable to do so because you refused Him?

I've thought a lot about giving and receiving today, and I've realized something very important. It is always more blessed to give than receive, unless God is doing the giving. In that case, we would do well to accept all He wants to give.