Sunday, December 02, 2007

Learn to Receive

I've come to believe that we are not good receivers. I'm not talking about football, mind you. We don't receive gifts very well. You may think this sounds silly; after all, don't we all love to receive gifts at Christmas? Is it counterintuitive to say that we are worse at receiving than we are at giving?

This was a message I got out of my participation the background choir for "The Forgotten Carols." In the story, a nurse who tends to the needs of an older gentleman has a difficult time "receiving" Christ into her life. Ah, now do you get the picture? Think of this--if someone thinks we are in need and attempts to help us, what is our response? "No, I'm fine. Your help is not necessary." Why do we do that?

Do we do that with spiritual gifts as well? What if we close ourselves to receiving spiritual assistance? Are we "too good" for any assistance?

I remember receiving a gift in American Samoa from a good friend of mine. He was driving home from a scouting activity, and he felt like I needed some financial help. He shrugged it off at first, but the urge came stronger and stronger to him. As he was driving past the bank, he pulled into the parking lot and withdrew $120.00. He thought I needed $120.00. Then he thought, "well, he'll probably need to pay tithing on that amount" so he got out an additional $20.00.

At church, he handed me an envelope. A full envelope. I knew instantly that he was trying to give me money. I hesitated at first, but he said, "someone told me to give this to you." I didn't understand, but I couldn't argue with his explanation. I took the envelope.

Later, I called him and asked him what he meant by the envelope. He then relayed his spiritual promptings to me. I still didn't feel like I needed the money. I felt compelled to buy something for him with the money.

Then I remembered that the week earlier I had received a phone call at work from Jessi. She was concerned about one of our good friends who was not going to be able to pay her rent for the month. Her landlord was threatening to kick her out. Jessi felt like we should pay her $140.00 monthly rent. I hesitated at first to giving that amount, but relented. Jessi was a much better giver than I.

I wasn't sure whether there was a connection with my experience of giving $140.00 and my receipt of $140.00. Of course, doubt entered into my mind, and I wondered if someone had told my friend that we had given that $140.00. Nevertheless, I didn't really need the money.

Then I thought, what am I doing? If I gave this money back somehow, what kind of faith would I be showing? What would it mean to my friend; would he think his experience was all for naught? Most importantly, what was I doing denying the opportunity to myself to receive such a precious gift? It was not the money that mattered; instead, it was the warmth I felt from receiving a gift from my friend. I realized that the act of receiving was important. More than that, it was vital to my growth as a person.

This has become my theme for Christmas 2007. I've got to work harder at receiving. Especially at Christmastime, I've got to do better at receiving the gift of Christ.