“I Receive That!”
She walked into my Bible study classroom humbly and quietly and at that time, I had no earthly idea how dynamic this woman would become in my life. She came that first day with a friend of a friend and sat in the same spot each week, listening and nodding and only offering answers when asked. Some days she wasn’t there and yet for such a mild-mannered woman, I strangely felt a huge absence in the room. As the years passed, we reconnected throughout various events and circles and each time I was with her, I discovered layer after layer. I was drawn to her… to the point my soul leapt inside my chest whenever she walked through the door. Not many people have that much of an impact on me.
As I conversed with her and listened as she spoke to others, how I longed to just sit at her feet, live in her home, soak in the wisdom and goodness which oozed out for all she met. She was so transparent, so kind and so in love with Jesus. She “lived Him” in all she said and did, teaching her children how to do the same. I remember the first time I hugged her and told her “I love you.” She said, “Thank you. I receive that.” Her reply was one I have never heard so it stuck in my head. In fact, every time I am with her and she is given a word of endearment or compliment, this is her standard reply. Her behavior intrigued me to the point that those three little words began to obsess my brain and I had to pray and ponder. At first I was amazed at her boldness, her sincerity, her “matter of fact” simple behavior. There is no sheepish eye rolling or “Gosh, that’s so sweet of you to say…I try but I know I’m not perfect, etc…” Instead she simply accepts the gift. It is not because she is conceited or arrogant or thinks herself worthy and deserving of such compliments. It is in fact quite the opposite: she knows her past, her baggage, her imperfections and how Satan will daily use all that to distract her. Christ, on the other hand, reveals His grace and love in many forms…one being us. When I speak to her, I am truthful and loving. I see her heart, her potential and her passion and therefore edify her as commanded in Ephesians 4:29: “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” Around her, I feel myself straighten up, heighten my goals and want to be better in my thoughts, time and actions. She inspires me and urges me to keep pressing on. And I want desperately to “receive” as easily and gracefully as she does.
When I first thought about this blog, I wanted to find a picture of a beautiful hand of Jesus extending grace to us, beckoning us to simply rest in Him. Receiving and enjoying His bounty…ahhh. But that’s not easy for most of us. We see His beauty and goodness and think, “How in the world am I supposed to just sit among all that?! Does He not see my brokenness, guilt, shame, all my regret and mistakes? I do not deserve it.” Even if we understand the definition of free grace and tell others about it, for us to actually TAKE and RECEIVE grace is rare behavior. But my friend does just that. She sees the cracks in her foundation but also how Christ fills them in, allowing her to speak His words and apply His love to her family and friends. “I receive that” is not an ego asset built on compliments but rather a simple recognition that Christ is working in her and using her talents for His purpose. When people speak love to her, she receives the affirmation as Christ saying to her, “Yes, you are doing what I’m asking. Keep going!”
This concept has taken me years to wade through and realize in myself. Coming from a background involving the Detroit welfare system, child abuse, dysfunctional homes, stormy teen years and messy motherhood…I now see and accept the wacky way God has designed my personality and talents. For years I didn’t know what to do with myself; I was so different from others and had no idea how to blend in with the crowd and be normal. Today I am no longer embarrassed by my unique gifts, but rather I use them for His glory…and in doing so, I am learning to “receive that.” This week a dear friend from ages ago told me, “You are an amazing woman! I admire you! You are the perfect person for designing the Vineyard Project!” In the past, I would have blown this off as someone just being nice because they had to say something good…being a nice friend and Christian, you know. But this time I stopped. I acknowledged and received it. Yes, what He has done with my past and personality is doing exactly what He wants: encouraging others, inspiring them, giving them hope, pressing them on to reach their passions and dreams just like He has done for me. I daily offer Him my ingrained imperfections, my wacky way of thinking and my impromptu gypsy behavior. Yes! I receive that He is working in me and through His vision, I can love on others and bring them to the Vineyard ministry center to receive resources they need to grow and be fruitful in Him. My friend’s words were not a compliment for me but rather words of encouragement to keep going for Him.
This picture of Jesus carrying our baggage popped up on my FB wall right on cue…reminding me that there is no longer a time for excuses, no more whining and evaluating what I do not have, no more looking at the past and worrying how it will affect my future. My future is before me and He is leading… “Ok, I’ve got your baggage. I died on the cross for you. There’s nothing more to pay for or do to earn My grace. Follow Me. I have everything you need. Let’s get moving. Receive my vision for you…I designed it just for you, no one else. Come on! There’s so much work to be done!”
As the New Year rings, can you learn to say, “I receive that!” with an open heart and mind? Can you accept His calling on your life even though others might not understand it or approve of it? Will you use your talents (as wacky as they are) for His purpose…for He made you exactly how He needs you to be?! Will you leave the past in the past and live in the present, allowing Him to design your future? My friend, if we do not live for Him and trust Him, if we worry about our lack of resources and our abundance of regret…then Jesus suffered and died for absolutely nothing. Faith is either all or nothing; there is no “a la carte” life.
This is your challenge for 2016…
ACCEPT your journey and RECEIVE the blessings!
OCEANS by Hillsong
You call me out upon the waters
The great unknown where feet may fail
And there I find You in the mystery
In oceans deep…My faith will stand
And I will call upon Your name
And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise
My soul will rest in Your embrace
For I am Yours and You are mine
Your grace abounds in deepest waters
Your sovereign hand will be my guide
Where feet may fail and fear surrounds me
You’ve never failed and You won’t start now
Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger
In the presence of my Savior
Oh, Jesus, you’re my God!