I've seen a lot of people lately posting about wanting to be "used up" or "emptied out" as parents, Christians, wives, or friends. Giving everything of yourself isn't a bad idea in and of itself, but it is a bit misguided. Because when we give love, we aren't emptied out, we're filled up. When we give gifts we aren't empty-handed, we're open-hearted.
The idea that giving of yourself is costly is just slightly off the mark. Giving of yourself is priceless. Yes, there may be times that you feel a bit stretched or a bit pinched in your life when you are working hard or giving generously, or loving fully. However, those moments are inevitably followed by moments of pure and priceless joy and full and complete love.
Love is not only self-sacrificing, it is self-replicating. The love you give will be returned. It truly is more blessed to give than to receive. Don't settle for the self-deprecating and self-harming co-dependence that society deems appropriate. Give of yourself selflessly and you'll receive infinite returns. The only empty feelings that we may get are when we give in anticipation of something in return. No one will return your love or gifts in the manner or fashion that you desire. What you give will return in thousands of unexpected and incredible ways.
So rather than thinking of yourself in these self-centered terms of being emptied out and used up, think of your love and your giving in eternal truth. Give without expecting, but open your heart to receive the gifts given in return. Look for the joy in someone else's eyes. Look for the unexpected gifts from strangers or friends that you receive in return. Look for the love in your own heart to bubble over. Don't empty yourself out in a self-centered, self-aggrandizing way, or you will end up regretting it. Instead, empty out the stale, dry, selfish love you've been holding onto, and open yourself up to a new love. A love that gives more than it gets, and yet bubbles over in an overflowing bounty. A generosity that gives with joy instead of self-centered expecations.
As a more practical example, Friday I had a lot to do. I needed to do our homeschooling, work from home, and try to get the house cleaned and organized in time for a celebration on Saturday. I'm not saying I had a great attitude all day, but when my kids asked to go outside and play after school, I said yes. Not in a self-sacrificing or "I guess so" kind of way, just being open to their childhood and what the day had in store. After almost 3 hours outside playing with a neighbor and their visiting grandkids, we finally made it back in for my youngest's nap. I hadn't gotten to anything I wanted to, but rather than think selfishly about my plans for the day, I decided to just get what I could done and not stress out about it too much.
So, between 2:30pm and 7:30pm, I somehow found time for 1 hour of working at home on the computer, organizing and cleaning up the dining room, living room, and sunroom, sweeping and mopping the floors in several rooms, setting up the Christmas tree, and then I sat down with a cup of hot cocoa and watched some TV with the family after dinner.
I won't lie, I had some help (my husband is a great cook, and my kids watched Toy Story 3 while I was cleaning). But I will say that my attitude made all the difference. I'm positive that I wouldn't have accomplished nearly half of that with a poor attitude, even if I didn't take my kids out to play.
And the best part of the day, was playing with my kids. I got to relax on a lounge and look out over the lake and watch my kids play with some older kids. They raced bikes and raked leaves, and had a "leafball" fight, and climbed trees, and fed the fish in the koi pond, and ran over bridges, and played (supervised) with an electric leaf blower (making it "snow" leaves). I got to enjoy the sunshine of a crisp, fall day. I got to know our neighbors a bit better than I did before. All in all, it was totally worth it, and despite feeling exhausted at the end of the day, I didn't feel emptied out at all. On the contrary, I felt fuller than I've felt in a long time.