Thursday, February 16, 2017

Reclaiming the Art of Graciously Accepting Gifts


I like to think my friends and family that really, truly know me are aware that I do not care about money (beyond practicalities of paying bills and surviving, obviously). I mean, I did volunteer at a domestic violence agency for a year of my life making $100/month living in a rat-infested house in a gang-ridden inner city Chicago neighborhood (and before you paint me as a saint or insane, the rats were NOT part of the deal and no, I would not willingly do it ever again).

During and shortly after my volunteer year, I practically had a heart attack any time someone spent money on me, especially if I deemed it unnecessary or excessive. After all, I was hyper-conscious of every single dollar I earned or spent and was deeply engrossed in the mentality of any missionary; I agonized over splurging on occasional luxuries like a $3 coffee when that $3 could do so much good for someone else. The problem was, though, that whenever someone spent money on me I had a hard time quelling the thoughts about how much I did not need their gift to survive that my outward response sometimes bordered on seeming ungrateful or rude, which was never my intent.

Ever since my time in Chicago 5 years ago, I have worked really hard to relearn and internalize that nearly forgotten art of graciously accepting gifts.

So, I don't need grand gestures or fancy things, but you know what? It truly is the thought that counts. Even though my husband knows I would never be upset if he returned from work empty-handed on St. Valentine's Day, he gets me flowers because they are a gift HE CHOOSES to show me that he cares. It is something I don't need or ask for, and they certainly won't feed the poor, but he picks them out all on his own with me in mind, so it warms my heart to look at them.

That is a real gift because it is given out of love, regardless of what it may be. So I won't ever tell my husband not to give me flowers and I will graciously accept them every time. What kind of wife would I be not to openly receive such a kind, loving gesture from my husband?

After my volunteer year I struggled for a long time with feeling guilty any time I received gifts, but thanks be to God I was able to get past it. Not because I suddenly bought into our society's consumerism ploy, but because I learned more deeply what it means to humbly, graciously accept someone else's love. 

It might sound silly, but learning to just let myself be loved in the way my husband desires to show his love for me has revealed to me so much about the way God loves us.

Nowadays I can humbly accept a "just because" gift from my husband without crippling my conscience over how else the money could have been spent to help others in need; this is not because I suddenly care less for others, but because I have come to understand that the two are not necessarily connected and need not be.

A gift given in love is a gift unto itself and should not be analyzed in light of what else is going on in the lives of others around us. Likewise, a blessing from the Lord for me does not somehow take away the livelihood of another. As humans we have difficulty comprehending why the Lord blesses some of us in abundance while others endure hardships because it doesn't seem "fair" or the best distribution of resources, if you will. But, there is no shame in receiving God's love for us in whatever ways it manifests in our lives simply because others are leading different lives.

Friends, I hope that you experienced as much love as I did this St. Valentine's Day, because you deserve it. But more importantly, I hope that you can learn to openly receive the Lord's love without feeling any guilt. That, after all, is perhaps the best gift any of us can receive.

“Gracious acceptance is an art - an art which most never bother to cultivate. We think that we have to learn how to give, but we forget about accepting things, which can be much harder than giving.... Accepting another person's gift is allowing him to express his feelings for you.”
-Alexander McCall Smith, Love Over Scotland