Thursday, February 14, 2013

the gracious receiver

We've all heard the cliche, "It's better to give than to receive."  This is true.  It's also easier to give than to receive.  Over the past couple of years I have been learning how to be a gracious receiver.  At times, this has been a painfully difficult thing to do.  It's not easy to ask for help.  It's not any easier to receive it.  We squirm in discomfort and avoid it for as long as we can.  It can be humbling.  And embarrassing.  Awkward and uncomfortable.  It's admitting we have a need.  Or many of them.  And in a self-sufficient, "pull yourself up by your bootstraps," "you're in charge of your own destiny" type of world we live in, it is pride-stripping as well.  Naked and vulnerable pride-stripping.  It can hurt the ego and pull shenanigans on your emotions.  There's the guilt and the self-condemnation.  The insecurity and the inadequacy.  The feared judgment. The indebtedness.  It requires bright red grace.  I'm trying.

You wrestle with the inability to look someone in the eye and find adequate words that go beyond just "thank you."  What your eyes and your heart long to convey, but can't seem to spell out.  A heartfelt hug that seems inefficient and lacking.  And how you long to express so much more.  How does one let another know the depths of such felt gratitude?  Too many times I feel it plastered all over my heart shouting out in bright reds, but words can only whisper it in subtle pale and smeared pasty pink. Thank you.

I'm not going to lie.  I cannot wait till the season in life comes where we can be on the other end of this.  Where we can be the ones blessing, and not just being blessed.  I long for those days.  I often dream about all the ways we can give and help others.  I'm certain that some day God will place us in a position to do so.  One day.  He will.

I understand that this season of gracious receiving will only better prepare us to have greater hearts of compassion for those in need.  So that in return we can be the gracious and generous givers.  When you experience lacking or find yourself in need, it builds compassion in you and a desire to help others.  Even if you had that desire before, you gain considerable depth.  You understand.  You've walked a similar walk.  You can't help but to help.  You want to bless back. You become more keenly aware of others in need and look for possibilities to meet those needs.  Instead of stumbling upon someone in need, you begin to scan and seek them out.  Your eyes gain perception and your vision expands beyond yourself, extending to the needs of those around you.  And you yearn to fulfill.  To give. While you can't do everything you'd like, you set out to use the gifts, abilities, and resources He's given you in the moment.  For they can still be used to benefit another, and will be good enough for the ones He chooses to place within your path.  I'm still learning.

During one of our last sessions of Stephen Ministry training a few weeks ago, we covered a section in one of our required reading assignments called, "The Grace to Receive."   If you are anything like me, and have experienced a long season of need, sit back and open your heart up wide for the following words.  They just might challenge your perspective.  Kenneth C. Haugk writes:

"Strange that Christians should find it difficult to be gracious receivers when we confess that our entire lives- physical and spiritual- are gifts of God's Spirit.  And although the Bible stresses giving, it also gives us examples of receiving."

"Christ showed us how to be gracious receivers when He allowed the sinful woman to anoint Him.  In fact, I think Jesus rather enjoyed receiving this gift.  He had forgiven the woman, and she wished to demonstrate her faith and gratitude.  Jesus and the woman shared an act of community that would not have been possible had He refused her ministrations."

"The Apostle Paul had a similar give-and-take relationship with the people of Philippi (Philippians 4: 10-20).  Paul gave to them; they gave to him: they both received from each other.  Paul highly valued self-sufficiency, but he could graciously receive gifts when in need.  Both giving and receiving were important to Paul and he participated comfortably in both."

"It is a general psychological and theological TRUTH that individuals have difficulty giving to others unless they have first received.  Scripture emphasizes this most clearly.  The first letter of John (1 John 4:7-21) stresses that we are able to love others only because we have first received love from Jesus Christ.  In 2 Corinthians 1:4 Paul tells us that we are able to comfort and help others only because Jesus has first comforted us."

"When Christians, then, give love and concern to others, they are sharing the love of Christ active within them.  And when we receive gifts of love from our brothers and sisters in Christ, we are in a real sense also receiving Christ."

Did you catch that?  This last statement stopped me in my tracks.  I never want to deny receiving Christ or anything He has to offer.  Refusing help or closing the door of opportunity to graciously receive is, in a way, rejecting Christ.  He uses His body of believers to be His hands and feet.  When we refuse them, in a sense, we refuse Him.

The author further explains, "The parable of the last judgment in Matthew 25:31-46 instructs us to feed people, give them something to drink, welcome strangers, clothe people, take care of sick persons, and visit prisoners.  And, Jesus takes time to emphasize, when we do this we are not only helping other people, we are also ministering to Jesus Christ Himself.  ("Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to Me.") So Christ is present in both the giver and the receiver, in both the act of giving and the act of receiving."

This shed new insight on the act and attitude of being a gracious receiver.  I'm so thankful that we were given a perfect example in Jesus Christ.  The story of the sinful woman who spilled tears and perfume on the feet of Jesus is one of the most touching stories in the Bible.  It tenders my heart and moves me.  Over and over again.  For I am just as sinful and in need of forgiveness as this woman ever was.  And I found the same Hope as she: Jesus.  Our perfect example of graciously giving and graciously receiving.

"When a woman who had lived a sinful life in that town learned that Jesus was eating dinner at the Pharisee's house, she brought an alabaster jar of perfume, and as she stood behind him at His feet weeping, she began to wet His feet with her tears.  Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them."
Luke 7:37-38

This woman was an outcast.  Unwanted and unwelcome.  A party crasher.  Scorned and rejected.  Inwardly broken and wounded.  But humbly, she put these things aside, sought out Jesus, and gave her everything to Him.  Lavished love upon Him the only way she knew how.  Poured it out as a fragrant offering of humility, gratitude, worship and adoration.  They say the alabaster jar of perfume she emptied onto His feet was most likely worth a year's salary...it probably represented all she was worth.  And she willingly and unabashedly gave it to Him knowing that what she was receiving in return had no comparable worth.  Blood red forgiveness.  Stark white salvation.  Perfect peace.  And pure Jesus.

You'd be shocked to hear of the ways God has moved in the hearts of others to provide for the needs of our family.  Too many examples to give.  Some too humbling to even share.  My heart screams inaudible gratitude.  If tears could spell words, I'd have a book written.  I want to be like this woman who gave and loved much.  Graciously receiving all Christ has for me.  Even when it comes through others that act as His hands and feet.  And in return, I hope to give all that I'm worth.  This life spilled out and lived for Him.  And to Him.  In the shouting and song of thanksgiving.  And grace bright red.

2 comments:

  1. This is beautiful, Amanda! My husband and I have went through so many years of financial hardship. And it does give you a lot more compassion and awareness. We now notice those who are hurting. And with every increase God brings us we just want to use it to help others.

    I love how you talked about being a gracious receiver. I don't like when God leads me to give something to someone and they don't accept it. If the Lord is leading someone to help us, we need to accept it. Otherwise, we are telling God we don't need His help.

    Thanks for sharing this!

    Blessings:)
    Amanda

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  2. This spoke not only to my heart but to my position in life right now. It is a humbling experience and as your blog name suggests, I am still clay (He is still molding me)

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