It was a cold Sunday night, days before Christmas. The doorbell rang, and my children ran through the house to answer the door. We were shocked to see a crowd of at least 20 people standing outside.
Smiles and cheerful eyes shined bright in the dusky glow of evening. A harmony of voices young and old were singing Christmas carols in the chilly air, all directed toward our little family huddled together on our front porch.
Holding my husband’s hand, squeezed between my twin sons, and balancing my toddler on my hip; this tender moment will be etched into my mind forever.
White lights on our tree twinkled. For a precious 15 minutes, we took in the sight of a group of dear people from our church who had given of their own valuable time to surprise us at our door—simply to sing to us. To see us. To bless us.
Tears filled my eyes as I faced every person who had shown up and reminded us, “You are seen, friend, and you are loved.”
The ministry of presence is invaluable.
Platefuls of cookies and jars of Christmas potpourri were placed in our palms from cozy, mittened hands. Hearty hugs brushed up to us in heavy coats with furry hoods as both young and old stood on our frosty lawn, offering encouragement to us. I later confessed to my husband that I never imagined myself to be on the receiving side of this kind of ministry. Personally, I’m the one who wants to be doing the encouraging, the one bringing the gifts, the one blessing and serving.
But it seems this time God had other plans.
In His grace, sometimes we are the ones in need. We are the ones crying out for help. It is good for us to learn from that place as well.
It’s been a long, difficult season. We’ve been bruised by life’s blows. We’ve encountered the heartache of miscarriage—twice. For the past three years, my husband has worked extensive hours, and misses every evening with his family.
As a mama of twin boys and an active toddler, my days are full to the brim sweeping up crumbs, placing on band-aids, feeding, teaching, and helping my kids learn to share. But the grief over what’s been lost lingers. Lack of sleep, plus too much time apart from my husband, over time has led to exhaustion and loneliness.
It was in this camp of desperation that our church family remarkably showed up.
The Church showed us Christ’s love.
The Church displayed Christ’s kindness.
The Church reminded us that we’re not in this alone.
THE GIFT OF SURRENDER
Even in my personal struggles, my pride still competes with my heartache.
It’s not necessarily an easy place to be when you’re on the receiving end. As you open yourself up to receiving, you admit you’re vulnerable and needy. You open yourself up to tears and to the fear of not being fully understood. You may even feel unworthy of such an outpouring of generous love.
I wondered why I had such a hard time receiving this gift of generous love. Perhaps it is due to shame from my past. Or, maybe it’s my pride.
Maybe it’s because, ultimately, it feels better to be the one giving. I want to be able to pat myself on the back for bringing the meal or writing the card.
Sometimes, I just don’t know how to graciously handle being the one who is given to.
Jeremiah 31:25 states, “I will refresh the weary and satisfy the faint” (NIV). So often, I wear the apron of weariness and near faint-heartedness. I’m worn out from the needs, demands, tasks, and late-night wake-ups. I long for rest and respite. The tremendous job of being a momma is more encompassing and full of surrender than I ever knew existed.
But the daily laying down of my life, and the leaning into Jesus is the only way I can keep walking forward.
Jesus promises to refresh the weary.
Jesus promises to satisfy the faint.
That’s good news for this weary soul. However, the refreshing and satisfying may come in surprising, humbling ways. It may not be a relaxing day at a spa, but, instead, may be the sound of the Church rallying around your small home and small family, displaying the beautiful, powerful love of Christ.
To embrace this, is to be reminded that I’m loved and not alone.
REFLECTIONS ON RECEIVING
Jeremiah 31:3 says, “I have loved you with an everlasting love, I have drawn you with unfailing kindness” (NIV).
In my journey with Jesus, a questions stirs in my heart:
How well do I accept Christ’s lavish outpouring of love?
Do I bask in His unending well of forgiveness, His constant patience, and His gentle grace? Or, do I brush it off in disbelief and accept the subtle lie that I’m okay?
Do I allow my own tears of repentance and gratitude to fall, and turn to Jesus in my heartache? Or, do I box them up in a tidy package with a bow and shove them in the corner of my heart?
In Scripture, we see beautiful images of Jesus, the perfect Son of God, receiving love graciously.
I think of Luke 7, where Mary lovingly, tenderly sacrifices to the Lord by pouring the precious, expensive perfume on His feet. She honors Jesus. She allows her own tears to fall on Him, humbly washes His feet, and dries them with her hair. Jesus doesn’t dismiss her or stop her, but welcomes her deep outpouring of kindness.
He’s a gracious recipient of her expression of love.
I often brush off others’ willingness to serve and bless. I instinctually respond with the phrase, “Oh, I’m okay!” But maybe next time, instead of dismissing someone else’s heartfelt expression of love, with the Lord’s help, I can be a gracious recipient. In recognizing my own inability, and someone else’s willingness, I can open my heart to receive a gift with gratefulness, and then go and do the same.
Isaiah 30:18 says, “Yet, the Lord longs to be gracious to you; he rises to show you compassion” (NIV).
It’s humbling and amazing knowing that the Lord of ‘all’ longs to be gracious to us.
As I stop to reflect on how kind Jesus is to me—in spite of my sin—and how generously He gives perfect love and enduring compassion to the world—I’m in awe.
He opens my eyes to see that because of the tender, forgiving love of Christ that He has given me, I can be gracious toward others: to my disobedient children; to my difficult family members; to our human Church body; to complete strangers.
Since Jesus has transformed my life and set me free, He’s able to display compassion and love through me, if I’m willing to surrender.
Maybe some of the sweetest blessings are standing right outside our door, ready to blow us away with the compassion of Jesus.
Perhaps it’s time to admit our weakness; be okay with our vulnerable, fragile state; and accept the generous offerings of the saints.
We will be blessed. Then we may go, and do likewise.
Share a time when you experienced the humble gift of receiving. What impact did it have on you?
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