When the medical drama ER aired in the 90s, I had an infant and a two-year-old. I remember lying on our sofa nursing my son — right side, left side, right side, left — through ER, the news and, on occasional late nights, Leno and Letterman. (Being a human pacifier was a small price to pay for a baby who slept through the night.)
Anthony Edwards played the role of Dr. Mark Greene for the show’s first eight years. Wanting to spend more time with his family, he decided to leave, and I read he hoped to “go out in flames” (which took me right back to Top Gun and Goose’s tragic death). Instead, writers gave him the slow burn of terminal brain cancer.
In the episodes leading up to his death, Dr. Greene took his daughter to Hawaii to teach her important life lessons — how to drive, how to surf, and I really don’t recall much else, except his heartrending deathbed counsel. Laboring to speak, his performance was equal parts brutal and beautiful:
I was trying to figure out what I should’ve already told you but never have — something important, something every father should impart to his daughter. I finally got it: generosity. Be generous — with your time, with your love, with your life. Be generous, always.
It wasn’t what I expected him to say, and I found it unsettling. Perhaps the scene struck a nerve because I lost my own mother as a little girl, and there had been no last words or deathbed conversations. Maybe, I just couldn’t go there because I now had babies and couldn’t imagine having to tell them goodbye so young. Regardless, I felt like he should have offered some great spiritual insight, something more. Of course, it was television after all, and the series had no spiritual aspirations. Yet still, as a young parent, I judged his choice of counsel and found it lacking.
Now, many years later, having gained a lot of life experience and hopefully a little wisdom and maturity along the way, I find these dying words of a fictional doctor deeply spiritual.
Be generous with your time, love, and life. Always. Isn’t this what Jesus did (and does) for us?
Our world is so different now than when I saw that episode. We don’t have to endure commercials anymore. Neither do we have to wait for the six or eleven o’clock news. We don’t have to get up to change a channel (Ha!). Most of us have multiple devices through which we can stream entertainment or news 24/7, as opposed to one centrally located desktop computer.
More recently, we find ourselves in a world where we need to keep our distance for health’s sake. Most of us have suffered loss, and for some, a series of painful losses. I imagine we’ve all grown weary. Who could’ve predicted where we’d be today when we ushered in this new decade just a few months ago?
I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating: The things that matter most have not changed. God is still God — eternal, unchangeable, all-powerful, all-knowing, and ever-present. He is holy, faithful, merciful, gracious, sovereign, righteous, and just. God is love. And, without a doubt, He is generous.
The triumphant message we’ve just celebrated during the Easter season and the perpetually good news of the gospel reveal God’s incomprehensible generosity. In Christ, God has “blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 1:3, emphasis added). 1 John 3:1 says, “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!” I love that the NIV uses the word “lavish” because it communicates an extravagant abundance I don’t see in other translations.
When we’re paying attention, it’s easy to see God’s considerable generosity throughout Scripture and in our lives. Sometimes His gifts come as a result of our obedience or surrender, and sometimes they’re simply given in the way a Father loves His children. I absolutely love and appreciate that we get to see God’s most generous act from both the Father and Son’s perspectives:
From John 3:16 (ESV), “For God so loved the world, that He gave his only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” The sort of sacrificial love God demonstrated in giving His only Son to take my place, to make atonement for my sin, and not just for me, but for all of us who follow Jesus, is unfathomable.
From 1 John 3:16 (ESV), “By this we know love, that He laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.” Jesus knew what He was signing up for in the incarnation, and He did so willingly. Without hesitation, He gave His life so we could share in eternal life.
In the grandest gesture of generosity, sacrifice, and love the world has ever known, God gave His Son for us, and His Son gave His life for us.
“Be generous” won’t likely be the last thing I tell my children, but I hope they’ve seen that modeled in our home and that they’ve taken the words that follow 1 John 3:16 to heart. But I do agree with Dr. Greene that it’s important. As we’re maturing in our faith and becoming more like Christ, we’ll naturally become more generous.
During this COVID-19 pandemic of world-wide proportions, the generous spirit of many has been on display. Front-line medical personnel risking their own health and lives, grassroots initiatives of volunteers sewing and giving away masks for those in need, neighbors checking in on neighbors, the Church rising up, united to minister however and wherever they can. Focusing on what we can do helps minimize the anxiety fueled by all the things beyond our control, and that begins with a spirit of generosity.
Will you or I know that our last words to the people we love are going to be our last words? I can’t answer that, but I do believe it’s important to remain current with your people so there’s nothing left unsaid between you. We don’t know what tomorrow will bring, so let’s express our love, point others to Jesus, and say those important things we want our people to know now.
What is the last thing/most important thing you’d want to tell the people you love?
How have you seen generosity played out in your community?
Focusing on what we can do helps minimize the anxiety fueled by all the things beyond our control, and that begins with a spirit of generosity. -@robindance: Click To Tweet Leave a Comment
Bev @ Walking Well With God says
I, too, was a big ER fan when my kids were just littles. It’s interesting that the word translated to “give” is used literally hundreds of times in the Bible. The word to “lavish” is used six. The intent of the word is to give or bestow, but to do so with generosity. Our God is a generous God. He withholds nothing from us. I think my parting words would be about seeking a genuine and intimate relationship with the Lord – after all that was His purpose in creating us. I believe that when we seek Him first, we are ushered into wanting or desiring to love others in a way in which we love ourselves – and that is with generosity of spirit. Great post, Robin!
Robin Dance says
How precious that your words point to eternity <3. Perfect, Bev.
Michele Morin says
Sadly, the toilet paper debacle has revealed humanity’s hoarding hearts.
In Christ, we can do better. And I wonder if our best message will end up being our poured out lives. I have a feeling my last words will be pretty mundane (“Don’t forget to feed the dog” or “There’s lasagna in the fridge that needs to be used up.”)
Robin Dance says
Wow, Michele…you made me think, smile, and nod my head. Well done, and in such a few words :). xo
I believe above everything, Jesus was generous with LOVE! Because He showed such love to us, I hope & pray that my legacy will be love for others. Great post Robin.
Robin Dance says
What better legacy is love? God IS love, and I suppose you’re spot on. Our desire is to be like Him. <3
Robin, what an outstanding reminder. Thank you. I needed to read this today!
Robin Dance says
Love you, sweet friend!
Joan Moore says
Wise and beautiful words!!! Thank you for reminding us to be generous, to love and to remember that WORDS matter!!! You never know when the last words spoken to a person may be the last thing they hear from you!!! Let them be loving and Christ like.
Robin Dance says
Sometimes when I’ve been out of sorts with my family (or really, anyone), I think about how much I want to see them soon to remedy any discourse (or unfortunate words that were spoken). Because we don’t know for sure what our future holds, you’re right–let ALL of our parting words be loving, generous, or pointing to our great God.
Subi Wilks says
Thank you for this beautiful, thought-provoking post, Robin.
As a mother of grown-and-gones, I have been painfully aware over the years of how short I fell in parenting. I did, however, determine early on that no matter what failings they could accuse me of, they would never be able to say that they didn’t know if I loved them. I try to tell them and show them every time we connect.
I did point them to the Saviour, and I pray that they will always be just as sure of His love for them.
Robin Dance says
I am convinced you cannot overestimate the power of love. They know this!
Diane Bailey says
I want my last words to be the first words my children heard me speak to them. ”I love you so much. And Jesus loves you. Always keep Him in your heart. This life isn’t going to be easy, but because Jesus loves us, we will make it. ”
Robin! This post is excellent work! Thank you sweet friend for sharing your heart and wise words.
Robin Dance says
You’ve SHOWN those words to your children over a lifetime. I love knowing that about you :).
What I always say to my adult children is “be kind always”.
Nancy Ruegg says
I read about a wonderfully generous act on Bev Rihtarchik’s blog, Walking Well with God (She commented above). Her friends planned a birthday parade, driving slowly past her house, horns honking, with signs, balloons, etc. to celebrate Bev on her day during this strange time of social distancing. I was impressed with their creative problem-solving and generosity of time effort!
Dawn Ferguson-Little says
What most important is forgiving even people and family and friends who have hurt us by the words or things they have said or done. As when you look back it. The only person it eating up is you. As they probably are not thinking or giving what they have said or done as second thought. When we stop and think of all that going on in our world today what they they probably not worth thinking about or even getting up set about. When you stop and think about it there are People crying because their loved ones being told they not makes out of this Covid 19. That is very sad. Someone somewhere in is breathing fighting to stay alive not because Covid 19 just because of a health problem somewhere in our world today. Some Families are in saddness because they been told bad news by the Doctors that their loves one will not get better. This list goes on. So we if saved have to do what it says in the Bible be thank full to be alive and if well and in no pain. Thank God for that. Plus if got unforgiving to do. Do it. Unto God and start praying for the person saved or not saved that they will see what they have done is wrong. Hopefully come and ask you to forgive them. If they do Put your arms around them and give them a big hug. If it after this Covid 19. If during the Covid they as you forgive them still do. Tell them when it over you will give them a big hug. If not saved you are let them know you are praying for them. Thank them for asking you to forgive give them. Then you yourself will feel so much better and wait will be lifted of you. Plus God will be proud of you. Another thing most important is to give God thanks you are alive you have roof over your head food on your table clothes on your back. When there are people in our world who don’t have these things. We can be praying for them and the people who help the homless. People stuggling with other things we are not like being on drugs and drink problems. I pray for them. Theses things are important. Plus loving all people of all color or all walks of life like Jesus did when he walked on earth. Love todays reading. Xxx
Amen Robin! Yes I have witnessed generosity of school mums each of us giving money to another mum who knew two families that lost their jobs for grocery vouchers.
Smiles. Teddy bears in windows do kids can spot them in our daily walks. A lady up the road seeing masks and giving them away for free, a kind of help yourself scenario.
Your right Jesus was very generous while on earth and eventually the ultimate sacrifice by giving his life to atone for our sins. God also in providing a path, a choice for us to accept his generosity and love.
I need to be more generous right now with my time to my kids and homeschooling. It’s hard when I’m still doing normL hours. It is a little flexible so thanks for the reminder Robin. I do remember Dr Greene and oh it was sad!
Beth Williams says
It’s hard to know what to say for last words. My prayer is that my actions speak louder than words & show my people that I care for them deeply. Off & on I spent 10 years caring for my aging parents & their dementia. No last words because they couldn’t understand. I pray this crisis brings people together. More family time. I have used this time some to help my MIL out. Took her to the doctor, for an x-ray & then to Walmart for meds & groceries. It didn’t seem like much to me, but I know she enjoyed not having to rush around & drive. I have called people multiple times checking on them. Making sure they didn’t need anything & were alright. Sent a few cards to people (snail mail). I’ve also read on FB about a landlord in NY who told all his residents to forgo paying rent in April. He was born & raised in that neighborhood & wanted them to have money to buy necessities. So much good coming out in a crisis. Wish this could continue when life gets back to semi normal.