Jen here, to introduce today's guest blogger, one of the sweetest women I've come to know. I met biblical fiction writer Mesu Andrews at last year's ACFW writer's conference in Nashville, an event I absolutely love and that routinely leaves my introverted self ready to implode. Or hide. And seek out large amounts of chocolate. Add to this the fact that God was showing me some pretty heavy stuff, and you'll understand why my time with this gentle-hearted woman felt so refreshing.
Mesu has a way of bringing calm and peace to a situation simply by being there. That, I believe, is one of her God-given gifts, and something that she gives freely. But, when it comes to being on the receiving end, well ...
No Gifts Please by biblical fiction writer Mesu Andrews
I’m about to do something I don’t like to do—be vulnerable. Vulnerable is different than transparent. Transparent isn’t so bad. Transparent means I tell you something unpleasant about myself, but it’s something I’ve battled and won, maybe even tied into a neat little bow with a victory dance. You give grace. We sing Cum-by-yah and go home.
Vulnerable is different. Being vulnerable means I tell you about a current struggle, something still in process, still messy and maybe even a little ugly. I hate vulnerable, but here goes…
Grace Makes Me Nauseous.
Not grace from God. No, no, I’m staking my eternity on the grace of salvation!
Ephesians 2:8 –“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.”
Yep. I’m counting on God’s gift of grace! It’s grace and gifts from others I have a hard time receiving. There it is…that’s the big reveal.
I. HATE. RECEIVING. FROM. OTHERS. Whew! There. I said it.
Here’s a little example of just how much I dislike receiving. We recently moved across the country (from WA State to NC—literally across the country) for my husband to re-enter pastoral ministry. We love our new church, and the people are amazing. The other pastors on staff have welcomed us like old friends, and we love them dearly.
My birthday was last week, and we wanted to have the senior and associate pastor and their wives over for dinner—but I didn’t want any gifts.
So we didn’t tell them it was my birthday. When they arrived and saw the birthday cake, they looked at me like I had grown a second head.
“Why didn’t you tell us it was your birthday?” One of the wives asked. It was a fair question.
I answered with, “Y’all being here for dinner is my gift!” Which was true but also a cop-out. I simply didn’t want anyone to bring a gift!
The looks on all their faces told me I hadn’t just miscalculated the strength of southern love and care. They were genuinely hurt, and I realized my “issue” had crossed into sin.
Why the Aversion?
Let’s get real with some more vulnerability, shall we? As I searched my heart for why I avoid gifts, asking for help, and a whole list of other things that well-meaning folks offer, I came up with this list of absolutely brutal reasons. See if you can relate to any.
1. What if they say they’ll help and then don’t? Then I have to deal with bitterness.
2. What if their help or gift doesn’t meet my expectations—or makes things worse?
3. What if they expect me to give something back to them—a gift with strings?
4. What if I don’t know how to respond? Or can’t reciprocate the way they want?
Can you hear the seeds of sin in each question? Pride. Fear. Resentment. Selfishness. What may outwardly appear as humility—“No gifts please”—is rooted in a myriad of self-centered sin. How’s that for ugly?
A Gift Refused
God’s Word always has something to teach us about exactly where we are in life’s little classroom. Here’s a story about King David refusing a gift:
“At that time David was in the stronghold, and the Philistine garrison was at Bethlehem. David longed for water and said, ‘Oh, that someone would get me a drink of water from the well near the gate of Bethlehem!’ So [three of his Mighty Men] broke through the Philistine lines, drew water from the well near the gate of Bethlehem and carried it back to David.
“But he refused to drink it; instead, he poured it out to the Lord. ‘God forbid that I should do this!’ he said. ‘Should I drink the blood of these men who went at the risk of their lives?’ Because they risked their lives to bring it back, David would not drink it.” 1 Chronicles 11:16-19 (emphasis added)
I’ve wrestled with this passage for years, thinking David was a bit of a—well, ummm, jerk. Now, however, in the midst of my own wrestling match with gift receiving, I realize that his reasons for refusing the gift were much more righteous than my own.
By refusing the drink, he likely discouraged any more rash decisions from these three warriors and any further heroics from his elite guard. And by “pouring it out to the Lord,” David honored the fact that these loyal soldiers had risked their lives. It was a brilliant reaction, really, to an entirely inappropriate gift. He considered others above himself and valued the community of believers in the presence of His God.
Great Current-Day Example
A I’ve pondered this gift conundrum, a true-to-life gift-giving example comes to mind—something I should learn from within my own family. A couple in our first ministry position adopted us since our birth families were several hours away. They’ve become grandparents to our girls and Mom and Dad to us over the years.
As with most eighty-something year-olds, they don’t need anything else at Christmas time, so they ask for, “No gifts please.” Instead, they ask that we use whatever money we would normally spend on their gift to bless someone in need. Hubby and I, along with our two daughters’ families, pool together our cash resources to bless a ministry or family.
It’s an others-centered way to refuse a gift—a God-honoring way—that values the community of believers in the presence of God. I think King David would approve. More importantly, I think our Savior applauds.
What About You?
Do you have trouble receiving? Gifts? Help? Care from others? Maybe your reasons are similar to mine—or perhaps completely different.
As I said in the beginning of the post, I don’t have this gracious receiver thing tied in a neat little bow, but here are a few things I’ll do to start living in God-honoring, others-centered community:
· Accept, when someone offers to buy coffee or lunch
· Accept, when someone offers to bring a side dish to our house for dinner.
· Admit when I’m overwhelmed and need to cancel a coffee date or meeting.
· Admit how I’m REALLY feeling when a friend asks, “How are you?” (I won’t tell everyone ‘cause some folks really want to hear, “Fine, how are you?” LOL!)
If you have other suggestions on how to be others-centered in God-honoring community, please leave a comment below. I’d love to chat about it!
Mesu Andrews has been married to her husband Roy since 1984, and she's known him since they were both third-graders. You can read their story HERE. They have two grown daughters who are now married and presenting Mesu and her husband with adorable grandbabies. As a prolific biblical fiction author, Mesu has six published novels and shares her family adventures and nuggets of faith in her weekly Deep-O-Tionals and on her Blog.
Her latest release is called Miriam:
The Hebrews call me prophetess, the Egyptians a seer.
But I am neither. I am simply a watcher of Israel
and the messenger of El Shaddai.
When He speaks to me in dreams, I interpret. When He whispers a melody, I sing.
At eighty-six, Miriam had devoted her entire life to loving El Shaddai and serving His people as both midwife and messenger. Yet when her brother Moses returns to Egypt from exile, he brings a disruptive message. God has a new name – Yahweh – and has declared a radical deliverance for the Israelites.
Miriam and her beloved family face an impossible choice: cling to familiar bondage or embrace uncharted freedom at an unimaginable cost. Even if the Hebrews survive the plagues set to turn the Nile to blood and unleash a maelstrom of frogs and locusts, can they weather the resulting fury of the Pharaoh?
Enter an exotic land where a cruel Pharaoh reigns, pagan priests wield black arts, and the Israelites cry out to a God they only think they know.