I’ve never understood the platitude, “It’s as blessed to receive as it is to give.” I am a giver. Before you begin applauding me for my contributions to humanity, you also need to know that my motives for giving haven’t always been selfless. I’m not diminishing a strength I do possess: I have an enormous capacity for compassion. That gift has come packaged, without bubble wrap to cushion the impact of a myriad of personal tragedies and life experiences. For the most part, I can close my eyes, walk in others shoes, and relate on at least a heartfelt level. So, I’m not going to be too mean to myself. I honestly didn’t recognize, I was carrying around this tattered, decades old agenda, I often pulled out to chart the operatives in my giving affairs. I wasn’t even very selective. I gave of my time, my heart, my loyalty, my body and my money, often to those that didn’t even want what I had to offer. That particular awareness has come about in these last ten years, as I’ve trepidatiously tip-toed inward to discover who this spirit, disguised as a human being, is.
Closer scrutiny revealed how often I gave just to be accepted, loved, or obtain something I thought I had to have; or, amend, what I perceived as past poor behavior for sins I committed. Unforgivable crimes..... like having the audacity to be born in such an untimely manner, or not being a good enough wife, girlfriend, daughter, mother... human being. I was the self-appointed little Deity pronouncing judgement on myself as well sentencing me to a larger than necessary dose of retribution. Instead of four hundred Hail Marys and a thousand Our Fathers, I gave until it harmed me, spiritually, emotionally, physically, socially and financially. What I heard Mini-God-Me say was, you better keep giving or you will never, ever, be good enough to get to wherever it was good people went. I thought I needed to earn the RIGHT to receive and I just knew I would never be able to pay it forward enough to inherit the Kingdom on Earth let alone Heaven.
I am much better today extending myself in healthy ways, and kindly walking away from the giving tree when I don’t feel like shaking its leaves free for you. In the past, I would have chopped it down, cut it up into firewood and hauled it to your house. You wouldn't have even had to ask.
Receiving, even after enlightenment set in, still makes me squirm. Receiving demands you surrender, accept, and take the risk that you might intimately be touched in some way. Receiving involves loving yourself enough to recognize what you are tenderly doling out to others, you are deserving of, as well.
Surrender was not in my vocabulary. To be able to surrender, you have to trust that someone or something else is occasionally equipped to run the show and play their role in the unfolding of the Universe. My childhood tapes played back in a very masculine voice, “YOU can do anything YOU set your mind to do all by yourself.” And, acceptance... well, that was just another word for giving up. I’ve worked hard on redefining surrender and acceptance. In my dictionary, it now means, knowing I am not the Master of the Universe, there is a plan, others are a part of the plan, and it is okay to let them make their unique contributions. Sometimes their contributions might involve doing something, helping, or giving.... to me too. Surrender and acceptance have come to mean peace of mind as I ALLOW others to do their holy work and occasionally help me move through mine. I could actually ASK for their help too.
There is a risk to this receiving stuff. Intimacy.... Yikes.... That word made me shudder, break out in a cold sweat and bolt.... as fast as I could. When we receive, we are opening ourselves up to the recognition, we are worthy, we are connected by Love, compassion and generosity. It is a part of each one of us, just waiting to be asked. It is the part of us, the Father, whose face lights up at being able to bring joy to His own creation. It is the Father who says I want to give you it all and their are big things in store for you. Those emotions and the enormity of that kind of Love frightened me. I just knew it would leave, like love often does.
I’ve slowly been opening myself up to receiving and am beginning to see how treasured I am by the many faces of my Creator, who wants to give me so much, but hasn’t been able to because I’ve been using my own measly little teaspoon at the ocean to construct my sand castles. It’s been exhausting. All I needed to do was bring the big empty bucket! Then, watch the look of joy as others help Him to fill it and my heart, with hope and dreams come true. When I think back to the payoff in satisfaction and joy I get when I give, why wouldn’t I want to give that joy to others and welcomingly receive too?
So, when I got the phone call a few weeks ago to RECEIVE the gift of having my bare feet washed at my church as a part of the Maundy Thursday ritual, I looked skyward and asked, “Is this a test?” I think it was. I mean, seriously, it’s rather intimate to have someone bathe your toes, especially a Priest! We hadn’t even had a first date! But, I buffed and softened my heels, trimmed my nails and painted them a pretty shade of pink. As I was called to the alter, along with the other eleven “disciples” (I’m certain I was Thomas) that evening, I squirmed restlessly in my chair. I saw the Priest, the deacons, and the servers approach my feet slowly and meaningfully. They
poured soothing warm water over my toes, a pan underneath catching it.. then, gently towel dried my feet with bleached white, fresh towels. As they completed their task, they each smiled, shook my hand, and thanked me! I was stunned. And I sat there, and they moved on to the next "disciple", tears began to mist, I was intimately touched by the understanding of the loving gift Jesus gave his disciples after The Last Supper. I became aware in that moment of the power of allowing others to give us the gift of their service. When we begin to get comfortable with receiving, it is then that our world becomes larger and full of so much possibility! And, it all starts with saying yes, or just asking.