It was one more casserole proffered as Christian service that led me to devour an article in the Utne Reader entitled "Charity: How Much is Enough?" The article turned out to be little more than a rationale for Yuppie selfishness, but the title questions bounced around in my brain.

The dilemma points to these questions: How much is enough? What is enough? When is enough?

When a challenging religion instructor led me to look more closely at metaphor and symbol in the language of the scriptures, I began to discover some answers to my "enough" question.

First, I found in the Mormon Doctrine and Covenants the verse: "And above all things, clothe yourselves with the bond of charity, as with a mantle, which is the bond of perfectness and peace." The clothing metaphor sent me to the book of Proverbs in the Bible: "Let not mercy (often used with charity) and truth forsake thee: bind them about thy neck; write them upon the table of thine heart."

And there it was--the "heart" of the matter. Everywhere I looked in the scriptures there were references to "heart"--circumcised hearts, hard hearts, changed hearts, loving hearts. I thought of familiar sayings like: "find it in your heart;" "he doesn't have the heart;" "heart in the right place;" "wear your heart on your sleeve;" "put your heart into it." But my best discovery was learning that "heart" was a symbol of mortality in the ancient world, and then I remembered this phrase: "learned it by heart," which we say when we mean we really know something well.

Were those ubiquitous casseroles a way to learn something really well? Were they helping us memorize a lesson during mortality, a lesson written on the table of our hearts?

There was a time when our Mormon women's Relief Societies used to record compassionate service hours. I'm not sure what the records were used for or by whom, but the practice has ceased. I'd like to think that someone making that decision saw a better way to record--for the word "record" comes from two elements: "re" meaning again and "cord" meaning heart. Rather than write those hours in some report, we are to record our compassionate service in our hearts--over and over again until charity, that "pure love of Christ," fills our hearts and our mortal lives.

The heart is central to understanding "enough," but it's those clothing metaphors that I like best. Both scriptures speak of dressing in a mantle of charity. I am actually asked to put on this pure love of Christ, like a beautiful shawl or robe. To take His glory and bind it around my neck and arms and waist and shoulders. Dressed in love and glory, dressed like Him, I would appear Christ-like, a stand-in for Him to those I would serve. Like an actor memorizing lines, I begin to act as Christ would act, do as Christ would do.

Life as a dress-rehersal. I want to learn my "enough" from Him.

more from beliefnet and our partners
Close Ad