When ER debuted in the Fall of ’94, I had an infant and a two-year-old, and I’m sure escaping into TV melodrama was a welcome respite from the storms my wee ones managed to whirl. I remember lying on our sofa nursing my son–right side, left side, right side, left–through ER, the news and then late nights with Leno and Letterman.
During the episodes leading up to his death, Dr. Green takes his daughter to Hawaii, to teach her important life lessons–how to drive, how to surf, I really don’t recall much else.
Except a last admonishment to her, one that has haunted me in the ensuing years.
“Be generous. Always.”
It struck me as odd, then, that a parent’s dying words would speak to generosity. It was unsettling for some reason; I judged those words as somehow falling short. In my mind, as a believer, I felt like he should have offered some great spiritual insight, something with eternal value, something … more. Of course, I realized it was television after all, and the series had never before offered anything substantively spiritually enlightening; but still, I saw it as missed opportunity.
At some point, years later, I learned a painfully difficult lesson in generosity. It involved a close friend, fingers pointing in my direction and accusing harsh words. In essence, my friend told me she pitied me because she saw no generosity in me, that I must be missing so much in life because of my inability to give to others.
These were verbal daggers; I felt they were unwarranted, unjust, unfair! How DARE she accuse me! In my mind I thought about all the anonymous gifts I had made, all the things I had done for others quietly and without need for recognition or recompense, and she didn’t know what in the world she was talking about.
The volatility of that conversation could have wrecked a precious friendship, and the truth is, it did for a while.
After a flood of tears, some counsel from another friend…and earnest prayer, I realized God was using this to affect me, change me–to renew my mind and transform my heart. I prayed that He would expose any areas of selfishness or greed in me; that I would hold loosely material things, and consider others in need more than myself…that I could focus on how He was conforming me to His image amidst the hurt feelings, that I wouldn’t harbor bitterness, and that I could forgive freely.
I recognized there was her perspective, my perspective, and the truth lay somewhere in between.
I also realized I did withhold generosity from this friend; somehow I felt she demanded something “more” from me, and stubbornly, I wasn’t going to “give in”.
Those dying words of fictional doctor Mark Green are profound and deeply spiritual to me now.
Just thinking about the gospel, what God did in sending His son into this world, what Jesus did in enduring the cross, is there anything more loving, more unimaginable, more generous than giving your life for another?
I’m curious–what your thoughts are in response to Dr. Green’s admonition? Have you learned a difficult “life lesson” through conflict in friendship?