Punched in the face (how's that for an attention-grabbing headline?)

Hi friends, not too much to tell about the medical part of the journey today. Overall it was a good day for Team Davis. He took the second dose of chemo like a champ, and is resting fairly comfortably tonight. I’m thankful that we can turn off the Dora early tonight and have some quiet while he sleeps and I write.

We had a number of visitors today, which made for a busy but beautiful day. We were brought dinner again, as well as a number of gifts of food and funds, and even a small Christmas tree for the basement suite that we’re staying in. We’re being taken care of so well.

And my family’s on their way tomorrow for a few days over Christmas, so we’ll be able to hug and kiss our kids, and see other family, which will be so so good.

All of which has prompted some more reflection for me, so if you’re just here for the Davis update, you’re free to go. :) But if you’d like to read on for some (ok, a lot of) musings, you’re more than welcome to do that.

 

Ok, if you're still here, you get to find out about the title...

 

I don’t have the exact source to pinpoint right now, but I think it was author Leonard Sweet who said that we talk a lot about a theology of giving (and I know there’s a perception out there that all the church talks about is money -- in some cases, sadly that’s probably true), but that we need to develop a better theology of receiving.

I think he’s right on the money on that one.

It’s something I struggle with, receiving, that is. As a Christian, I firmly believe that there’s nothing I can do to earn God’s love for me; that is freely given to me through Jesus. I receive grace and mercy from God all the time, and I know this intellectually and I know it by faith. It’s not anything I’ve done or will do that causes God to shower me with those things, but only because of Jesus. I know that.

But often it's still a struggle to believe it (a frequent prayer of mine is "Lord, I believe help my unbelief!"). And it takes shape a lot of times in more tangible ways. I’m used to being on the giving end. My work is all about giving to others, pouring myself out for the sake of others. That’s not to say I don’t receive in my work; not at all. I do. All parents know that life as a parent is about giving of yourself to your kids. Marriage isn’t about what you can get, but what you can give to one person for the rest of your life. It gives me satisfaction to give. That's not a bad thing in and of itself, but it certainly can take on selfish notes as well. (Reminds me of that Friends episode where Joey and Phoebe are debating about whether it's possible to be completely unselfish. Great writing there - and more theology than we might think too.)

Let me be clear: that’s not to say I don’t receive in my family; far from it. My wife and kids love me more than I could ever deserve, and they show their love for me constantly too. This is not me saying, "I always give and never receive...wah, wah, wah". Not at all.

There’s something about receiving, though, that is a struggle sometimes. It punches my pride in the face. And I’m learning more about that too during this journey.

I’ve already said (really, nothing I say is brand new, is it?) that we’ve been overwhelmed in a good way by all the support we have. We’ve had many good friends and family stop by to visit, to pray, and to help in many tangible ways. It’s only been a week, and we’ve been given enough food for a month or more. Today I learned of some teenagers in a local church that set up a fundraiser that brought in hundreds of dollars in a very short time; those funds are for our family. I could tell you so many stories already about the great love and support that we are constantly experiencing.

And for that we are incredibly thankful to God and to all of you.

Yet I feel my pride rising up. It feels selfish to receive like this. I feel like I shouldn’t need to receive like this, like I should be earning it, or be more grateful, or (eventually) attempt to pay back in some way. I know that everyone who’s given has given freely, and isn’t expecting anything other than a “thank you”. But my pride insists. It rises up to turn that thankfulness into a self-righteousness that says “I’m going to earn this back somehow”.

My pride needs to be punched in the face.

Or, put more delicately, I need a better theology of receiving. Christianity is primarily about receiving: it’s not based on what we can do to earn God’s favour, but on what Jesus has done for us, and what we receive because of that. That’s why it’s called “grace”: the very definition is receiving something that’s not earned. If it’s earned, it’s not grace. And the response of faith is simply to say, “thank you”, and to share that love with those around us.

The ironic thing is that’s exactly what those in our family of faith around us have been doing: sharing the love of Jesus with those in need. It’s just that this time, we’re the ones in need.

And yet, still, those last words were hard to write, hard to admit. My pride wants to say, “we don’t need it that bad, don’t trouble yourself, don’t worry about us we’re fine, there are so many other people who need this too”. My pride wants to say, “I’m fine. I’ll stick this out on my own. Find someone who REALLY needs help.”

My pride needs to be punched in the face. A nice sharp jab should do it, to take it by surprise and send it reeling.

So to all of you who have given, who are planning to give, and who will give, be it in words of encouragement, in prayer, in thinking about us, in reading these words, in material goods, whatever it might be: thank you. Please know that you are very much appreciated. Every time I read a post on Facebook, or here on the blog, every time you give a card or a care package, I realize how very blessed we are, and we thank you so very much for your generosity and friendship.

Allow me to co-opt the words of Paul to the church in Philippi tonight. Yes, the middle part is specific to his situation, but I echo his words to you all tonight. From Philippians 4:10-20:

I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me. 
    Yet it was kind of you to share my trouble. And you Philippians yourselves know that in the beginning of the gospel, when I left Macedonia, no church entered into partnership with me in giving and receiving, except you only. Even in Thessalonica you sent me help for my needs once and again. Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that increases to your credit. I have received full payment, and more. I am well supplied, having received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent, a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God. And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. To our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen.

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