It’s the 26th. And I’m reflecting on the season. I’ve been a bit out of it this year. The season just sort of happened to me. But throughout it, I kept receiving gifts. Mostly encouragement, affirmation, kindness, beauty and goodness I was just not able to respond to the way I’d love to when I’m on my game.
It got me thinking. I come from a family where we were taught not receive almost anything without a plan of paying it back. My dad was a child of the Great Depression and though I can only remember him saying it once it was eminently clear that the Lynches were not people who would receive from other’s generosity or would take a handout. We would not be beholding to anyone. My dad was maybe the most fair, honest and hardworking person I’ve ever known. But somewhere he learned you don’t receive without quickly devising a payback plan. The goal was to get things even. He was a very proud and conscientious man. He was unselfish and gave generously. But I don’t think he really ever learned well how to allow himself to be loved. Most men, probably because of the perceived expectations of culture and role, struggle a bit with that. But male children of the Great Depression turned it into an art form.
I remember when I became a believer in Jesus, my dad, a brilliant, self-made man, talked about faith in God being a “crutch” for people who needed a “handout”.
He was right.
Anyone who wants to follow Jesus must get very comfortable with handouts. It’s the only way God will have it.
He gives everything, I can earn nothing and what I can repay He doesn’t need.
You see, there’s a way self-made people live and a way people live who understand gift. Self-made people keep score. You can be assured if they know who they are beholden to, they certainly know who is beholden to them! They also imagine they’re earning something by what they give. They’re not certain how it all plays out, but pretty sure when the Big Bell Cure is revealed, they’ll be sitting very pretty. And they’re self-assured that even at this moment, they are more in the center of God’s will than most others because of deeds they can count.
There are people who presume on gift, who take without ever responding to the love of the giver. They lose both ways. They feel ashamed for taking and they never get to experience what it feels like to give.
But those who trust their new life in Jesus, well, its an altogether different animal. It’s depending upon the reality of this new heart that makes all the difference. We, at once, learn that everything is gift. Everything. And we also find ourselves, filled with the very nature of God, unable to co-exist with self-centeredness. We no longer have the nature for it. We find ourselves responding and receiving the endless love of our God. And because the nature of love is to lavish it upon others, in needs-meeting ways, we eventually can’t help ourselves.
It’s the difference between proving ourselves by our deeds, and receiving a life we couldn’t earn, that releases loving deeds.
As we trust the giver of the gift, as we trust the very nature of receiving gift, we find ourselves making a decision to allow our entire life be returned as gift!
We don’t keep score. We just can’t imagine living any other way. It’s who we now our, reborn people, fused with God’s nature, defined by love. It begins to erode our shame, which created the “no handout” policy to begin with.
So, we become unashamed to receive the love of others. And we are unguarded with giving away our lives to others, to glorify the One who needs nothing. He needs nothing, but chooses to build His kingdom on the expression of the love received by the ones who trust Him.
Because He first loved us, John says, in his letters, that’s why we love him. It’s why and how we love others. Many people can love, but the love that emanates from His love in us, that’s the only magic that makes God’s heart smile and accomplishes His will in this Kingdom.
This season I’ve been receiving a lot of this love. And it humbles me. It renews me. It woos out my new nature to give itself away. …This is the way love is.
(We’re about a month away from “The Cure” study guide and DVD being released. We can’t wait for you to take groups through it, to keep freeing such a way of life.)
John. One of the Three Amigos, part of the ever-growing tribe of grace
Tue, December 27, 2011
by John Lynch