All of our lives, we are told that it is more blessed to give than to receive. We train our children to give and share. We take great delight in showering our children with gifts for their birthdays and Christmas. We find joy in giving to those who are less fortunate than us.
Few things are as wonderful as giving, but we often fail to realize that there is an art of receiving as well. Throughout my life, I was always the one who seemed to have everything together. Others looked to me for support and encouragement, and I thoroughly enjoyed being there for others. One of the greatest joys in my life is to walk alongside someone else and be a friend and source of encouragement to them.
When I filed for divorce, I found myself broken and in need. But, I had no idea how to receive from others. I needed financial support. I needed emotional support. I needed help with my children. I was in uncharted waters.
For me, this was a huge lesson in humility. I had always taken pride that my parents had never needed to help me. I had seen them help my siblings at different times in their lives, but I had never needed anything. I had put myself through college. I had put my husband through a bachelors and masters program. My kids were always healthy and happy. But, now my life had crumbled, and I was the focus of attention–and it was a very uncomfortable place for me.
My parents were absolutely amazing! Have I told you that I am blessed with an amazing family? Initially, my mom came and stayed with me during the week to help with child care while I was at school and work. She helped with housework and grocery shopping. Eventually, my parents sold their house and moved back to Oklahoma City to be closer to me.
Then, there was the financial support. At the time of my divorce, I was in nursing school. I worked a maximum of 20 hrs/week at $12.00/hr. I had many times where my paycheck was only $250. I did not qualify for ANY government assistance, but I certainly didn’t have the money to pay a mortgage and feed three kids. My parents paid my attorney. They made sure I had the money to pay my bills. They helped me in so many ways I can’t even recall them all.
Eventually, I found the joy in receiving. Whether it was my parents or the gentleman at church who repeatedly slipped me $100 bills, I found God’s blessings all around me. I had people offering to watch my kids. I had ladies take me to breakfast where they just wanted to love on me. I began to be able to pick up the phone and ask for help–as much as I hated to do it. I had to admit that I could not do it all on my own.
When we refuse to accept gifts from others, we are preventing them from receiving a blessing. We are also blocking God’s work in our lives. Christ came to give us eternal life, but we can only have that gift if we receive it.
It is obvious what kind of life develops out of trying to get your own way all the time: repetitive, loveless, cheap sex; a stinking accumulation of mental and emotional garbage; frenzied and joyless grabs for happiness; trinket gods; magic-show religion; paranoid loneliness; cutthroat competition; all-consuming-yet-never-satisfied wants; a brutal temper; an impotence to love or be loved; divided homes and divided lives; small-minded and lopsided pursuits; the vicious habit of depersonalizing everyone into a rival; uncontrolled and uncontrollable addictions; ugly parodies of community. I could go on (Galatians 5:19-21, The Message).
There are so many gifts that God wants us to receive. We must not only be able to receive gifts like those listed above, but we must also be able to receive the gifts of love and encouragement. While I was still trying to keep my marriage together, I came acrosee the above passage. The phrase “an impotence to love or be loved” just jumped off the page at me. There are people who simply do not have to the power to give or receive love! Why? because they are living in the flesh.
One of the most poignant examples of what can happen when we refuse to receive is from my own marriage. Throughout my nearly 17 year marriage, the only real complaint I heard from my husband was that I was not encouraging. I would ask what I needed to do differently, and I would cry out to God to give me the ability to encourage him. I waas simply beside myself trying to find ways to be an encourager to him.
When my husband moved out, I found stacks of cards and notes that I had written to him. Wasn’t this proof that I had tried to encourage him? God began to bring people across my path, and repeatedly I was told what an encouragement I was to them. As I looked for opportunities to share God’s love, I was told that I always knew exactly what to say. I was amazed that I seemed to be able to encourage everyone. So, why was it that I had not been an encourager to my husband?
I now realize that the problem was not with my encouragement, but it was with his receptivity. He had an impotence to love or be loved. When we choose to walk in the flesh, we cannot accept love–or encouragement or any of God’s other gifts. We are focused solely on ourselves, and we miss the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. We fail to receive the gifts He is trying to pour out on us, and we miss so many blessings.
But what happens when we live God’s way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely (Galatians 5:22-23, The Message).
I don’t know about you, but I would much rather live a life filled with the fruit of the Spirit than the work of the flesh. God designed us as Christians to live with others in a give and take relationship. The Christian life is about balance in so many ways. If we are all about giving, we need to examine our lives and make sure that we know how to receive. If we refuse to receive from others, then we are blinded by pride, and pride leads to a fall. First pride, then the crash—the bigger the ego, the harder the fall (Proverbs 16:18, The Message). But, we most definitely can’t be focused solely on receiving, either. If we refuse to give, we are lost in selfishness and we will find ourselves in the works of the flesh.
Where are you today? Are you able to receive from God and others? Or is receiving an uncomfortable position for you? Get down on your knees before the Master; it’s the only way you’ll get on your feet (James 4:10).
Above all, make sure that you have received the free gift of eternal life from our Savior. That gift of forgiveness is the first step toward the promised land!