Monday, February 28, 2011

A lesson in receiving...

I'm a gift person! It is definitely one of my top love languages...but when I say I'm a gift person I'm not talking about flashy jewelry, expensive purses, or a $500 pair of shoes. I'm talking about little things like the ping pong ball one of my students in Thailand gave me years ago, a handmade card or note, or wildflowers picked off the side of the road. I also absolutely LOVE to give gifts! Birthdays and Christmas are always so hard for me because I feel so pressured to get a great gift for those I love and treasure...something that truly expresses my heart and appreciation for them. I find I give better gifts at random times...when I happen across the perfect tea cup for Heather, the picture frame that completely screams Katie P., the floor pillow that reminds me of movie nights at Meghan's, and the cutest scarf for Katie G. It's in those moments that I get giddy with excitement about the way in which I can tell the people in my life that I thought of them today.

But something that I'm realizing more and more is that I'm not too great at receiving gifts, or more accurately I don't open myself up to be in need of help from anyone. I find that I'm really good at listening to others and helping them along their journeys but when it comes to me...well I'm ok thank you very much! This thought came pouring out of my mouth in class a couple of weeks ago (yes I'm back in school...well sort of...that's a blog for another day!) and it started me thinking about how difficult going to see a spiritual director was going to be (part of my school program)...I have to talk about me for an hour? That's not what I do...I do the giving, the listening, the caring...I don't play the recipient very well!

A few months ago, when I had my surgery, the beginnings of this thought process came up. I didn't want people visiting me in the hospital, heck I had a hard time asking people to pray for me...I mean this was a routine surgery right, I was going to be fine! Then a day or two after my surgery a dear friend shows up at my house with a bag full of brand new beautiful scarves so that when I go out I can cover up my super large scar. I didn't know what to say...and I instantly thought how can I pay her back? What can I buy her to show her I appreciate her? Oh no, I made too big a deal about wearing scarves all winter and she felt guilted into buying me these scarves!

So back to present day. Last week I went down to the Rainbow Sandal Factory to help my mom pick out a pair of Rainbows and while I was there I texted several friends and asked them if they needed any sandals. A couple of them responded so I bought the sandals and throughout the week I delivered them (knowing they would pay me back). Then on Sunday night I was dropping off the last two pairs with a friend at church. He hands me a $100 bill and I was like...umm I don't have change on me, you can just pay me next week. His response, "Don't worry about it, keep the change." I think I actually laughed out loud and responded with "No way, that's like $30! There is no way I can keep your $30! I will bring you change next week." He sort of chuckled and told me that he wanted me to keep it, that he wanted me to have it, that I needed it more than he did. I admit, in my mind I was really offended! "What, I don't need your $30! I'm fine financially thank you very much!" But thankfully I didn't say that out loud! I said thank you, but I feel like I had a quizzical look on my face...why was it so hard for me to receive a gift from a friend who is well aware that I haven't worked in 9 months? Wouldn't I have done the same thing for a friend? Probably, but that's different!

The whole rest of the evening I tried to figure out how I could give the money back, how could I give him something that would be equal (or better yet greater) than what he had just given me? Basically I wanted to be the giver, not the receiver...receiving things is very humbling! And that's when I began to unravel the real issue, my pride! I don't like receiving because it means that I am in a position of need, I have to admit that there is something out there that I can't provide for myself...a place in life where my accomplishments, abilities, or strength isn't going to be able to cut it. And I'm pretty sure the pride thing goes deeper than just receiving gifts from my friends...I think it cuts to the core of my spiritual being. I have a hard time receiving grace and love from God...I get in the way, thinking that I can take care of myself, that I can solve my own problems and make my life wonderful...but what I'm basically saying is, God you are awesome and I think your gifts of grace, mercy, and redemption are pretty wonderful, but I've got it...I can handle it. But the God honest truth is that I am so desperately in need of my Savior's grace and He died to give it to me! And there is absolutely no way I can ever pay him back, say thank you enough, or get God something bigger or better in return! His love for us is truly a gift!

I don't want to become a "needy" person, but I am in need of grace and forgiveness and the only way to relieve that need is to learn to receive. So for the journey ahead I will continue to give with my whole heart, but I will also begin to let go of my pride and learn to receive the most amazing gift ever given.

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