How would you respond if God asked you to buy yourself a dozen red roses from Him? Would you say, “No way, that’s crazy. What a waste of money?” Or would you gratefully receive, delight in His love for you, and then watch in wonder as He opened opportunities to share the gift?
Why do I run from the love He offers? What makes me think it’s wrong to receive?
Maybe it’s that I fear being selfish. I don’t want to live a small, ingrown life that’s all about me. What I forget too quickly is that I can’t live a life that’s bigger than myself by myself. Only God can live that kind of life in me.
I love God’s generosity. That’s why it hurts to face my own stinginess. Too often, I’m a stingy giver. And a stingy receiver. Stingy with myself and stingy with others. I don’t like it.
I don’t like it. So why do I keep running from the love that God offers?
I think I have believed that I have to be stingy with myself in order to give to others. If I let myself enjoy less, I’ll have more remaining to give. It makes sense in a closed system where resources are limited. But I’m discovering that often I am running from the love that Jesus offers. I’m refusing his love, and rather than ending up richer, with more to give away, I end up poorer, with less to give, for not having received from him.
It helps me to think in terms of becoming gift instead of giving gifts. I can give outside of my relationship with Jesus. I cannot become gift apart from Him.
It’s God’s way of doing things. He said it first to Abraham. “I will bless you. . . in order that you become a blessing.” He lived it Himself, Jesus receiving the Father’s love, and then, incredibly, becoming gift to bring us into that same identity; “you are my Son, whom I love, in whom is all my delight.” So, too, He sends us. He becomes gift to us, enabling us to become gift to others.
This is why we must receive. We can’t rightly respond to the needs of the world unless we let Him love us. We can’t become gift without receiving the gifts offered.
When I’m walking close to Jesus and living in His love, I want to be serving. I find myself asking Him how we can next serve together. When I’m serving out of obligation rather than overflow, all my self-protective defenses go up and no matter how I try to force myself to serve lovingly and cheerfully, I can’t quite pull it off.
This doesn’t mean that becoming gift is always easy or full of happy feelings. Just ask Jesus. Sometimes this full-bodied being given is more painful than a half-hearted giving. But there’s a sense of His presence in it, an awareness that it’s another way to be with Jesus (even if in His death). It becomes possible to serve out of love for Him rather than resentfully, as happens when I’m turning from His call, “Come closer,” to compulsively meet “obligations” that He’s not calling me to at all.
Becoming gift as an overflow of receiving brings freedom. When I give out of obligation, I feel the weight of expectations. Will my offering be good enough? Will I be good enough? When I allow myself to become gift, the pressure to figure it all out and get it exactly right disappears, for then God is the Giver and my only job is to surrender to Him as He both gives to me and gives me to others. My eyes are on Him (always sufficient) rather than myself (too small and inadequate) or the needs (too big and overwhelming).
And when I become gift in the hand of the Giver, there is this confidence. God only gives good gifts. Even when I get it wrong, the expert Giver can turn it to good. For despite our brokenness and capacity for messing things up, He sees each of us as a gift worth giving! A gift worth giving to His dearly loved Son, and to the world. Just like He sent Jesus, He sends us into the world as gift, to show the world how much He loves them.