May 12, 2015

Blessed to be a Receiver (Even When I Thought I Didn't Need To Be)

By Ruth Meyer

“Here, let me help you, Ma’am.” The Walmart employee was rounding up stray carts in the parking lot. “You’ve got your hands full.” Without waiting for an answer, he grabbed the cart from me and started pushing it. I was irritated. I can do it myself, buddy, I was thinking inwardly. I don’t need any help. But then I realized I had an overflowing cart full of groceries. I had been steering with one hand as I held onto my two-year old with the other, all while trying to keep the cart enough ahead of me so it wouldn’t crush the baby I had in the infant carrier. Clearly, whether I wanted to admit it or not, I did need help.

That elderly gentlemen taught me a valuable lesson that day: it’s okay to accept or even ask for help when you need it. He had expertly loaded the groceries into the trunk before I even finished strapping in my two-year old and getting the baby out of his infant carrier. And by doing so he saved me from an inevitable meltdown on said two-year old’s part as she sat in a hot car waiting for me to load everything in the back. I actually left the parking lot happy. Why was I ever irritated with him in the first place?

Why is it so very difficult for most of us to accept help from others when we need it? Somehow it’s much easier to be the giver than the receiver. I don’t know about you, but when I hear of someone who is having surgery or struggling through job loss, I jump at the chance to be the giver. Need a meal? I’m there. Child care? Bring it on. Gift cards for Walmart? Anytime. Maybe it’s motivated by selfish pride, but I enjoy giving, and I’m guessing I’m not the only one.

Ah, but what happens when the pendulum swings the other way? What happens when you’re the one who is in a position to receive? For many of us, that’s not as easy. Sure, there are those who are always on the lookout for freebies and those who feel entitled and take advantage of the system, but I’m not talking about them. I’m talking about admitting you need help from people you know. Many of us tend to feel that if we accept help, we’re admitting weakness. We bristle at the suggestion that we can’t handle everything, even when it’s clear we can’t.

When my family was going through a financially straining time, it was very difficult to swallow my pride and accept “charity” from family and friends. Family members who visited would buy us gift cards for groceries to help cover the extra expense of having them there. Church members gave us anonymous cards with money inside. We were offered a great deal on housing because we couldn’t really afford anything else. It was kind and gracious of these people to do these things, but it was also dreadfully embarrassing for me personally. It’s humiliating to know that your struggles are public knowledge, embarrassing to be on the receiving end of well-intentioned giving. It hurts the pride.

Like it or not, there are times when you will need to be a receiver. Whether you need to accept financial help, household help, help with meals, or even just someone to push your shopping cart for you, you can’t do everything by yourself. God places other people in our lives who are more than willing to help share our burdens in such situations. But there’s another area in which every one of us has to be a receiver: salvation. Maybe that’s why so many people have a difficult time believing in grace alone. It hurts the pride to admit that we cannot earn our own salvation. We can never be good enough to get to heaven on our own. We can’t even make a decision for Jesus on our own accord. We confess in the explanation to the Third Article of the Creed: “I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith . . . .” It hurts to admit that we can’t come to faith on our own or keep ourselves in that faith. It’s all God’s work in us. The Triune God is responsible for 100% of our salvation. Our contribution is 0%. We are but poor beggars with nothing of our own to offer. We have no choice but to admit that. And God, in His grace and love, assures us that He is more than happy to be the only Giver.

Dear Sister, I don’t know what you’re facing right now. I don’t know if you’re blessed to be on the giving end to others or if you’re currently in a position to be a receiver. Thank God either way-- either for the opportunity to bless others or for those He places in your life to bless you. And all of us can thank Him for giving of Himself so freely for our salvation. It’s a blessing to be on the receiving end, especially when the gift is life eternal.


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Ruth Meyer is living out her vocation as a Lutheran woman in the roles of sister, daughter, mother, and wife.  Her greatest joy in life is living as a redeemed child of God, who has blessed her in her many vocations.  Besides her human relationships, Ruth's other interests include music and writing.  She is a church musician and has a special love for Lutheran hymnody.  She also loves to write, and and her children's book, Our Faith from A to Z ,was recently published through CPH.  Ruth keeps her own blog at truthnotes.net.  Her hope is that through her writing you are encouraged and perhaps even challenged in your God-given vocations.

Image: "Joachim and the Beggers," Andrea di Bartolo, c. 1400

6 comments:

  1. Thank you for this article. It is so true. I do, however, have a question. I am in a season where I feel totally and utterly spent. I am expecting our 4th child and the circumstances in our life right now just leave me feeling like I don't have a lot - if anything - to give. I keep getting asked, though. For whatever reason, I seem to be the go-to person when people need someone to help with childcare, picking up their kids, etc. How do I navigate this? Do I need to trust that God will give me everything that I need to meet these peoples' needs? Do I need to politely say "no" and how do I do that without feeling like I'm leaving someone in a lurch? I admit that I am not good at accepting help myself - but that is because I know what a sacrifice it is for me to help someone else right now, and I don't want to burden somebody else in this same way.

    Thank you in advance for your thoughts.

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    1. I have been there, in a life situation where I have to say no to people's requests because I have to focus on my family or my health, or both! I'm also a person who loves to do for others, to help and give, and it's so hard for me to say no. What really helped me was to have an answer already prepped, so I knew exactly what to say and wasn't fumbling for excuses. I learned to say, "I'm sorry, but with all the changes my family is going through right now, I'm not able to help out right now."

      I also tried to differentiate between people who genuinely needed MY help, and people who just needed help from anyone who could help. A friend who needed someone to watch their kid for a couple hours while they went to the doctor? Needed anyone's help, not particularly mine, and I could say "no." A friend who was having family problems and needed to talk to me for comfort and advice? Needed MY help, not anyone else's, so I'd still say "yes." Sometimes it also helped if I could offer a suggestion of someone else who might be able to help when I couldn't.

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    2. That sounds rough. It's tough to make (and evaluate) decisions when one is physically and emotionally drained, which of course makes life even more draining.

      I think it's worth remembering that even the Apostles didn't try to do everything. In Acts, we read that they found other people to distribute food/etc. when those tasks made it hard for them to properly perform their own vocation.

      Caring for the physical and emotional needs of small children is a complicated, demanding job; all the more so because kids aren't machines who will thrive when simply given the proper doses of food and exercise. It makes a big difference in their lives to have a mom who can smile, laugh, and enjoy them (at least some of the time--not every season in life is a happy one, and kids are resilient). Because of this, I think it is a right and good thing to do to protect one's ability to give this kind of emotional nurturing to one's children. There are seasons when staying home/saying no may be the only way to do one's best in one's vocation as a mom.

      In addition, I know that I've sometimes been guilty of asking for too much help from someone else because the person seemed happy to give it. If they are going through a tough time, I would very much prefer to be told (nicely, if possible, of course) that now is not a season in which they can give me the help I'm looking for.

      Blessings as you live out this season of life, and congratulations on the new baby!

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    3. Rachel/Hamlette, excellent point about distinguishing between people who simply need help and people who need *my* help.

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    4. I, too, like Hamlette's distinction. That's a great way of looking at it. And Anna's point about the Apostles delegating part of their work is an excellent reminder as well. Women in general tend to have a hard time saying "no," and I believe part of that stems from guilt. I remember one time at a former church I went to an LWML meeting with my two very young sons, one only a couple of months old. They were talking about electing officers and one of the ladies looked at me and said, "Well, Ruthie, why don't you do it? You're home all day!" I was flustered and embarrassed and had no pre-planned response for such a ridiculous statement. But I admit I had a fleeting moment of guilt as if I *should* have all the time in the world to help since I didn't work outside the home. It's hard to let those feelings of guilt go.
      Ironically, it was another LWML function that helped me get over that guilt. We were at a rally some time later, and they were lamenting how no young women were there. A rather outspoken elderly lady got up and told everyone to look around. She challenged everyone to count how many "young" women were there, and I was pretty much the only one. Then she told us that she knew why. "Every time we get a young lady in here, we ask her to do so many things we scare her away! These ladies have young families and need to be there for their families. Those of us who are retired need to step up and do these things. Our families are grown. We are the ones who have the time, not these young mothers. For heaven's sake, leave them alone!" She had a good point. At this stage in my life, my family has to be my first (earthly) priority, and if I'm stretched too thin I can't be there for them emotionally or physically. I see it as being a "giver" to my kids in this phase, and perhaps later down the road when they don't need me as much I can be more of a giver to others. But in order to be a good giver to them, I also need to be a "receiver" at times. I'm not Supermom, so yeah, if someone offers to make us a meal or do a grocery carryout, I've learned to accept their offer graciously.

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  2. Thanks for your thoughtful advice. I will keep it in mind.

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