Walking beside my Sweet William during his open-heart surgery experience has been an interesting ride, running the gamut of emotions from anxious to joyful.
In the midst of it all, we have been on the receiving end of lavish love, care, prayers, and the comfort of the physical presence of friends and family. I truly believe all of that has contributed to Bill’s healing process. For me, it has been like a balm to my soul.
Now that we are home from the hospital, and I am back to a partial work schedule, people are offering to bring us meals, to run errands, to come help us in some way.
My nature is to say, “Oh that’s OK. We will manage.” It’s not that I don’t want what friends have to offer. It is that I don’t want to put them to any trouble on our account.
I learned to be a giver a long time ago. My dad taught me to tithe when, as a child, all I had was a dime. I watched mother and dad give time and money to missionaries, ministers, and people in need.
But I learned a valuable lesson about receiving a number of years ago.
Bill had been out of work for months. There was no income coming in except a meager amount I was making from housecleaning other people’s homes. We were regularly dipping into what reserve we had to pay bills despite the fact that we had eliminated all but the necessities.
At that time, we attended a church with a small congregation. One Wednesday night after service, the pastor of the church came to our house with an envelope full of money. It had been collected as an offering for us, given by the people of the church. They were not rich people, just plain folk like us.
I immediately protested to the pastor saying “no” we could not accept that kind of charity. I don’t recall his exact words, but his message was clear. If we didn’t accept the gift, we would be cheating these dear people of the blessing of giving.
That made me halt my verbal protest.
Scripture says the Lord loves a cheerful giver (2 Corinthians 9:7). I guess I needed to know how He deals with a humble receiver.
It came from the story of the great prophet Elijah. The Bible tells how God withheld rain from the land of Israel because of the idolatry in the land. After Elijah delivered this message to the people, the Lord told him to go to Zarephath where a widow would provide for him.
What if Elijah had argued with God and said, “What? A widow woman is to take care of me? Why, I am your prophet, Lord. I should be taking care of her.”
But Elijah didn’t even twitch a muscle. He just obeyed. He found that widow and her son. She cooked bread for him out of her own need. Through her act of giving and Elijah’s act of receiving, they had oil and meal enough to last until the rains returned (I Kings 17).
Being on the receiving end is a humbling experience. It sort of purges the “I can take care of myself, thank you very much” stuffing right out of a person.
An independent spirit can be a good thing. But the truth of the matter is we are all one body as Paul the Apostle said. When one of us hurts, the whole body hurts. When I hurt even the smallest toe or finger, the rest of my body responds quickly to relieve the pain.
So it is with the Body of Christ. Its members come to the aid of one of the least of these when they are hurting. Members like me, like Bill.
We then are blessed to be on the receiving end of such kindness.
And what about the givers? They have an eternal reward awaiting them for giving just a cup of cold water in Jesus’ name (Mark 9:41). Imagine what the reward is for home-made chicken noodle soup and cornbread!
So when someone asks to bring a meal or to help in some way, I’ve learned it is OK to say, “That would be nice. Thank you so very much.”
And it is an incredibly pleasant experience.