“It is better to give than to receive.”
This is an oft-quoted-out-of-context verse at Christmas time and birthdays, particularly from adults to their children.
Yet often it begs the question: what if you can’t give? Is receiving only second best?
What if you feel like you do all the receiving and none of the giving?
Not all of us are positioned to ‘give’ at all times, in all places. Or sometimes when we do give, our gifts end up being more a hindrance rather than a blessing. What then?
How to receive when you wanted to give
My plans failed: I couldn’t give
I’ve been thinking about this recently because I’ve been sick. Bad flu, achy, sore throat, sleep-all-day, Panadol-every-4-hours kind of sick.
Unfortunately, as many of you know, my mum is also sick. A more serious kind of sick. Pancreatic cancer sort of sick – and she’s recently had major surgery.
I had it all planned out. I would work 2 night shifts and have 3 and a half days off to spend at the hospital, accompanying her on the healing journey.
It didn’t work out that way. Instead of helping my sister run a household and visiting the hospital and sending updates to people, I spent 5 days sleeping, reading and eating toast.
It was disappointing.
I was on the receiving end of much love which I could not return
Instead of giving, I found myself receiving, and receiving, and receiving again. It reminded me of a truth that I know, but don’t live out enough.
Receiving can be just as important as giving.
Receiving can mirror Christ just as much as giving can.
There is nothing shameful about being humbled by other people’s love. There is nothing wrong with being sick and unable to help.
It’s disappointing at times, but it’s not wrong.
What you can give: I rejoiced in receiving
We can’t always give. Some of us are so placed in life where we can hardly ever give. Others of us will go through seasons of giving and others of receiving.
Yet while we are in the receiving season, there’s one thing we can do.
Sometimes it’s the only thing we can do.
Rejoice in it!
Rejoice in love – that it exists.
Rejoice that our fellow humans are mirroring Christ in this way.
Rejoice that there are people who care, who love, who are working hard when we are not.
We can also let their love inspire us to go ahead and love others. Wildly, extravagantly, mirroring Christ.
So let me rejoice!
I am so thankful for all of those who have given of themselves and their time:
- For the work colleagues who put together a card, flowers and presents.
- For my buddies on night shift who fed me pizza, took away the pager and let me sleep despite my pleas for them to wake me.
- For the women at my church who have arranged meal rosters and dropped off dinners.
- For the friends who have messaged me with encouragements and prayed for me.
- For other friends who have dropped off gifts or sympathised with me.
- For my Aunty who has done all the visiting and talking and explaining which I couldn’t do.
- For my sister who has been juggling household tasks with hospital visiting like a pro and still remembers to ask me how I’m doing.
- For the constancy of my dad’s harassment to ‘take care of myself’ and his emojis when he has nothing to say but he loves me.
- For my mum’s embrace of both humility and independence as she journeys along the healing road, and never ceases to ask how I am, when she’s the one in hospital.
- And most of all for my Heavenly Father, who saved me not on what I could give, but what He could.
Rejoicing and receiving rather than giving is humbling
It’s humbling to realise that the world goes on without you. That often your presence is not actually intrinsically vital, although it may sorely be missed.
It’s humbling to accept when you have no ability to pay back.
It’s humbling to delight in something which you do not deserve and you did nothing to win.
Humility, according to the Bible, is worth cultivating. It can be painful, but it can also be a huge relief.
Even if I can do nothing my entire life, God is still good, and my life is still worth something.
I rest on this reality a lot. I value it, but sometimes I don’t practice it. The truth is, there is always a time for receiving, whether you can then turn around and give or not.
I really want this truth to infiltrate my decisions. The things I value. The people I value.
It’s not what I do that saves me.
My satisfaction should not come from what I can give.
I am still able to mirror Christ when I receive.
It can be better to give than to receive… BUT
Sometimes we are called to receive. And so, as I recover from the tail end of my flu I want to:
- take with me what I’ve learned.
- rejoice in receiving.
- be inspired by other people’s love, to see the blessing and the worth in giving.
// When was a time you were on the receiving end of love rather than the giving end? How were you blessed?
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