About a month ago Sung and I heard a sermon at our church about giving. As in cash. To the church. And it was not even a remotely irritating message. One thing the pastor said really stuck out to me and I have been turning it over in my head ever since. He said, “If your giver is broken it is because your receiver is broken.” He started describing a person who is stingy with giving to others and explained that that person may have the real problem when it came to accepting from others. I knew he was talking about me.
I am frequently “frugal” when giving gifts but often just lazy or even this word the pastor used– stingy. I didn’t think of it that way until he said it but it’s true. With others, with myself, I really don’t like spending money. I thought it was because I was “non-materialistic” but after further examination, I’m not so sure. If there is someone panhandling I feel no guilt whatsoever about passing them by because “giving them money isn’t the best way to help” even though I am not actively finding a better way to help.
Sung, on the other hand, is extremely generous. He usually gives food or money to people we see on the street. He doesn’t worry so much about spending money on things because he is responsible about paying his bills and he does not tight-fist his income. This used to bother me until I saw the one who really struggled with money was me, not him. Emotionally, it is difficult for me to spend money. Little did I know my tight-fist may be a result of my response to receiving.
I first noticed this problem with my “receiver” last year when I didn’t let my mom buy me a new coat for Christmas. Yup, you heard correctly. I told her she couldn’t do it, that I didn’t want it. It took me two months to realize it was WRONG to tell someone, especially your mother, that they couldn’t be generous towards you in the way their heart was moved to be. I apologized.
Then things started getting serious with Sung and I was tested in my newfound conviction that accepting gifts was important. First, he bought me an unsolicited birthday gift– a Kindle! Thanks to God’s grace through my prior experience, I received it gratefully rather than worrying over why he spent so much. When we were going to get engaged I thought we should save money and buy an opal ring but Sung really wanted to go all out and get me a diamond. Again, I was able to keep my big mouth shut, remembering that I am not supposed to dictate how generous people can be towards me. Anyway, we compromised… he got me both… haha.
Some other things of note happened during our engagement besides the purchasing of the ring.
I dealt with some guilt, worry, and fear about getting married. One of the things I worried about was that it might be self fish. I felt so loved and cared for in this relationship but perhaps I was more available to serve God as a single person. I also felt bad about leaving a ministry I spent years investing in to move to Nebraska just so I could be happy in love. I realized, then, that SUNG was a gift, a very generous gift, from the Lord. Was I going to return this gift, as I did my mother’s offer of the coat, because I wanted to dictate how God was allowed to bless me?
The final big test came as we made wedding preparations. People were SO generous with us. The gifts flowed in for weeks– really, really nice, costly gifts. More than that, people came around us with so much love and support. We had friends give so generously of their time and talents, making and doing things for us to make our day beautiful and special. I got to a point where I realized we could never repay all the kindness that was being show us, never even form the words to say a thank-you deep enough to express how we felt. I reflected on the fact that as people gave us “gifts” of presents and time and talent– they really were just that– gifts. All I could do was say thank-you, feel thank-you, and cherish them.
The broken receiver is really an issue of pride. Am I able to receive without being able to repay? And isn’t this the true story of the Gospel. God has given to us far more than we ever can repay. Yet, for people like me, it is so hard to receive. I frequently find myself trying to earn the gift God has given me for free by focusing on the good I can do or how much bad I don’t do.
I have a lot to learn about the art of giving, MORE to learn about the art of receiving… good thing I married such a generous man! I notice that Sung is not afraid to give because he knows he has enough. With my eyes fixed on the grace that has poured out on me from Jesus, I am hoping loosen my grip on the resources flowing in and out of our household.