Nothing to Give

Nothing to give.jpg

by brandi harris

I had a dream last night, that as I was leaving church to come home after teaching Sunday school with Grove Kids, Kanya grabbed me and said, “Hey, just before you go, make sure you give the message to the big service” (meaning the adults). I felt sick. I felt tired. I felt totally unprepared and unfocused. I had other things I wanted to do. I wanted to go home and get back in bed. But as a woman who rarely gets the honor of teaching, I said, “Ok, no problem,” and wandered into the auditorium, where I found my laptop and sat down next to my two church besties, Grace and Layla, who are 9 years old and in my Grove Kids class.

What to say? What to say? I have nothing. So I start typing into the YouTube search bar for Dirt and Grace videos that I could play and then reflect on. My typing is nonsense and barely resembles squirrelly English. Somehow YouTube reads my mind and pulls up a good video anyway.

I stumble to the stage to snag the mic from the tech people, then promptly drop it, sending thunderous reverb through the auditorium and earning disapproving glares from the sound lady and annoyed groans from the crowd. As I begin speaking to the disgruntled audience, I realize very few are listening. I look to Grace and Layla to run my laptop, who fall over each other excitedly and then push every key on the keyboard trying to get it to work, spinning my laptop into digital chaos, preventing any coherent method for an off-switch.

I face the crowd, now rising from their seats and gathering their things. They aren’t listening or even looking at me. They talk over my words. They walk in front of me across the stage. 90% of them shuffle out the door, leaving my pieced together sermon to be heard by the curtains. I realize my fretful efforts will make little to no difference in the lives of these people. It was over before it began.

This is, no doubt, a metaphor for how I feel about my ability to affect people. I am unprepared for the work the Lord has for me to do. I am incompetent to present a well-performed show. I am sloppy and unable to find within myself a motivating story or compelling message of morality. I have, essentially, nothing to give.

And yet–this is exactly what the grace of God looks like in my life. It doesn’t matter that I am unprepared and weak. It doesn’t matter that my tech crew is 9 years old and overly eager. It doesn’t matter that 90% of you are uninterested. What matters is that I show up. Or more, that God shows up.

So as my audience walks out, I feel peaceful. It isn’t about them. It’s about my little buddies finally getting to do something important. It’s about those 10% who hang back and are soothed by my illustration of grace. It’s about the fantastic God who does big things with little people who don’t give up, who keep walking forward, who keep hanging on.

Like Jacob–the loser wuss who can’t win a fight without cheating. I can just see him there on the riverbank, wrestling with an unknown opponent, hanging on to the man ten times his strength, who dislocates his hip and then asks him his name. Jacob owns his loserness, admits he sucks, but doesn’t let go. And there God gives him a new name–a name that focuses on the value of engagement, the value of showing up and not quitting: “Israel,” who wrestles with God and man and doesn’t. give. up.

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