Learning to Receive

Some people are good at receiving.

Others are not so good.

It wasn’t something I had given much thought to, until I started giving away grocery carts.

At Aldi, where I do most of my food shopping, the carts are stored all linked together. The process works like this:

Photo Credit: Flickr User Portal Abras, Creative Commons

Photo Credit: Flickr User Portal Abras, Creative Commons

  1. Place quarter in slot.
  2. Get cart.
  3. Shop
  4. Return cart.
  5. Get quarter back.

The first time I gave my cart away, it was sheer laziness. Someone was arriving as I was finishing loading groceries in my car, so I asked if they wanted a cart. Now, it’s become habit to give away my cart—not because I’m an exceedingly good person (I’m not), but because it’s proved to be a simple way to show kindness. And, in the process, I’m learning what it means to receive.

People typically react in one of two ways when I ask them if they want a cart and turn down their offer of a quarter. They either thank me and carry on with their day, or they try to force me to take their quarter—sometimes offering it two or three times. “Are you sure?” they say.

It’s a quarter, I find myself nearly saying. Even then, some will assure me, “I’ll be sure to pass it on!”

I think it shows a fundamental difference: Some people are good at receiving, saying thanks, and moving on. Others feel they must do something in return, as though they now owe a debt, even if it’s a quarter.

Now there’s something to be said for passing along a kindness or taking action as a response to a gift, but if we always live in a state of furiously trying to repay whatever good gifts we’ve been given, it can get exhausting. And it’s impossible, really.

The beauty of a true gift is that it shouldn’t need to be repaid.

Gratefulness and thanks are always appropriate, but repayment isn’t needed.

As I’ve thought about all of this and how it pertains to relationships, both with humans and with God, I’ve realized how not-awesome I actually am at receiving. In the back of my head, I’m often thinking about how I can “repay” a person when they give me a gift, whether it’s a physical gift or gifts of presence, attentiveness, love. Which is really not a great way to live. What if, instead, people give gifts simply because they like me? Not because they expect anything in return?

And what if it’s the same with God? What if he’s given me so many good things—love, grace, mercy, family, friends—not because he’s trying to get something from me, but just because he likes me? Because he loves me?

I can still serve God and give him glory and praise, but I don’t need to do so out of obligation, out of a sense that I am trying to repay what he has given me. Those things are gifts, really and truly freely given. No guilt, no obligation, no payment required.

It’s one of those things I’ve known in my head for a long time, but am still trying to figure out what it means for my heart. Outwardly, I may still serve in all the same ways I always have, but my internal reasons can be completely different. My responses can come out of thankfulness, not a furious need to earn what’s already been given to me.

If I let it, a gift can be just that–a gift.

Til next time…


p.s. How are you at receiving?

4 thoughts on “Learning to Receive

  1. I found out that I am TERRIBLE at receiving. In January I was without a car, didn’t have a lot of money, and couldn’t really do much with some of my friends. I had a lot of help in getting rides, and a lot of people helped me financially, but I always got so upset when they wouldn’t take my money for repayment. I finally did learn to accept gifts as gifts, but it was very hard!

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