The Gift of Receiving

God built the natural world in such a way that it both gives and receives. The earth receives rain and then bears fruit from that which the rain provides. God made our individual and communal worlds to operate the same way. The natural world puts no judgments on receiving. Neither should we.

We judge ourselves as being weak or needy when we are in seasons of receiving, as if the sum total of who we are is about pouring out. We live in a culture incessantly screaming at us to be productive and get things done, as if that is the priority above all priorities. But the spiritual, emotional, relational, physical worlds do not operate on a GIVE ONLY paradigm. We must create and hold space for time, processing, reflection, sustenance; we must learn to receive and not only give.

I have been in a long season of receiving and recovery. And it has been hard. I’m not writing today to get popular or to become the next greatest show on earth. I’m writing because I finally feel like my time of receiving has turned the corner into a time of giving. I’m understanding the richness of giving away, sharing my honest struggles, and taking vulnerable risks. I know I’m not done receiving. But I have learned what a beautiful teacher she can be and I’m learning to embrace her rather than judge her.

Listen to what Peter Scazzero says about this. “If we are not careful, our experiential sense of worth and validation gradually shifts from God’s unconditional love for us in Christ to our works and performance. But work FOR God that is not nourished by a deep interior life WITH God will eventually be contaminated. We cannot give what we do not possess. Doing for God in a way that is proportionate to our being with God is the only pathway to a pure heart and seeing God {Matt. 5:8}.”

Our family arrived battered and bruised when our moving trucks pulled in to Huntsville five years ago. We were working through a devastating job change, a house move, new community, new church, new jobs, scattered kids - none of which were on our “plan.” I had never felt so lost. Our teenage sons were struggling; I was grieving the first stage of empty-nesting. My new fledging career felt more like a firecracker dud than the fireworks display I expected after graduating with my masters. I wanted my old life back. It felt like I could reach out and touch it, but when I did, it was a mirage that disappeared on the horizon. Nothing seemed comfortable and I felt betrayed, confused, alone, cynical, angry, afraid.

communication in marriage

I was in no place to give. I realize now it was my season to receive. Oh, but I TRIED giving!! I tried to teach college girls like I had done for 10 years at our former church. I stood in front of them so disconnected from myself that I felt like a robot opening and closing my mouth. I tried several other “things” at church. I signed up to do stuff out of obligation and guilt. And don’t hear me say people were pushing me to do things or were guilting me to say yes. We have been embraced by wonderful, caring people since our move. It was ME trying to push myself too quickly to DO. To work. To perform. To be Christine again: the funny one, the surrounded by friends one, the busy one, the parenting 3 little Hoover kids one, cooking meals for college kids one, Bible teacher one, getting coffee at Stabucks with a friend one. But I couldn’t find her.

I needed to grieve, recover, be angry, experience the full weight of my losses, tend to my soul. And crazy enough, my new career as a therapist eventually gave me ample opportunity to do my own soul work. My courageous clients entered their stories of hurt with such tenacity. Walking with them into their sacred spaces invited me to enter into my own story of loss, away from my therapy office. I could NOT take them places I did not have the courage to enter for myself. It was life-giving and it was the beginning of my long journey back into soul health. I went back to counseling. I hashed out my anger, betrayal, hurt. Sometimes I even “went fetal” on my living room couch (advice given to me by a dear friend), and I curled up with my soft blanket as I wept. I would stay there until I was ready to get up. I had to feel my loss, enter into the death, so that resurrection could come. And it does. It will.

I know many of you, my adventuring friends, are hurting deeply right now. Deep wounds like cancer, divorce, death, children who are far from you, life transitions, betrayal, singleness, anxiety, depression. Soul Adventurers, there is no perfect timetable telling us when our seasons of giving and receiving start and stop. But what if this wound is inviting you to tend more deeply to your soul? Take times of silence, solitude, time to reflect on your life, stop doing and start tuning in to what God is doing in this moment. Do you need to quit performing and receive right now? Or maybe you need to be brave and start giving again. Either way, you can know for sure that God is asking you to soak up the rain of His unconditional love and that is the most important adventure you can embark upon.