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Prevenient Courage and Making Ourselves Useful

“Theologians talk about a prevenient grace that precedes grace itself and allows us to accept it. I think there must also be a prevenient courage that allows us to be brave—that is, to acknowledge that there is more beauty than our eyes can bear, that precious things have been put into our hands and to do nothing to honor them is to do great harm. And therefore, this courage allows us, as the old men said, to make ourselves useful. It allows us to be generous, which is another way of saying exactly the same thing.”  ―Marilynne Robinson, Gilead

To be generous and to be useful are the same thing, Marilynne Robinson writes. We are called to give joyfully and abundantly—not only of our wealth, but of our lives. This is a season of considering our stewardship—not only how generous we are with our money, but how useful we are with our lives. Both kinds of giving require courage and attention. But the good news is that both kinds of giving nurture joy.

This weekend, people will be gathering at the church to do something, as Robinson says, to honor all the precious things that have been put into our hands. We honor our abundance of good gifts by leading our children into mission and service at Doing Good Together on Friday evening, where families will pray and learn and act in response to the needs of the hungry. On Saturday morning, we will similarly gather to move, as the stewardship theme has it, from gratitude to generosity. Beginning with the gratitude for our families and communities, our own safe childhoods and healthy food, we will collect furniture and household goods for Habitat for Humanity, help low-income people in our neighborhood with household chores, sort toys at Arch Street Preschool, and put Urban Tree Connections’ gardens to bed for the winter. Even if we wake up reluctant on Saturday morning, even if we arrive resentful to start the day, God will meet us here nonetheless. God will grant us the prevenient courage we need, to be generous, and to make ourselves useful.