Fathom Mag
Article

When It’s Better to Receive Than Give

Every Monday is an exercise in love.

Published on:
March 26, 2018
Read time:
3 min.
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I wake up on Mondays with my heart in my throat. Attempting to distract myself from the fear of this column’s latest edition appearing on the internet, I dress my oldest son for school and offer my youngest his second bowl of Puffins. The ploy doesn’t work.

I do not fear that you’ll disagree with my opinions or start a Twitter debate with me based on something I wrote. Rather, butterflies swarm around the fact that the thoughts I share with you here are—like the name of the column itself—still steeping. My brain resents the idea of revealing myself as anything but carefully brewed, delicately decanted, and meticulously presented in the finest china.

My brain resents the idea of revealing myself as anything but carefully brewed, delicately decanted, and meticulously presented in the finest china.

Every time I sit down to write this column, I imagine you holding out a cup. I start to pour myself into it and am overcome with the fear that my words aren’t ready, that the brew tastes of the bitter weakness of incomplete thoughts. I’m afraid than you’ll notice me, the brewer of imperfection, which is the last thing I want. I’m convinced you’d be better served by my most refined ideas, detached from me as much as possible.

All of this fear stems from a misguided belief that I can reach the moment where I am no longer in process. My mind would prefer I wait for the kettle to whistle in a way it never will. And so, on Mondays, I wake up afraid that you will condemn me as quickly as I condemn myself.

I’m re-memorizing Romans 8 right now, a chapter still familiar but somewhat forgotten, left behind on a summer camp bunk bed. My friend Nadine also encouraged me to start praying the phrase “I praise you for I am fearfully and wonderfully made” multiple times a day. I’d really rather not, but when my yoga instructor says to take a few poses to ponder my self-talk and challenge the cruel critic within, I find myself rotating between the verses.  

Plank: There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

Cobra: I praise you for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. 

Repeat.

As I am stretched long and thin, I imagine the verses covering me. The scriptures make gentle impressions on my bony arms and elbows that keep turning the wrong way. Epistle and psalm wrap around my sides that measure the distance between the back my son kissed yesterday when I told him it was sore and the abdomen still seeking to rebuild after a cesarean section brought him into the world. The words press in just enough, beginning to extract the condemnation deep within me.

Nadine also encouraged me to read Psalm 1 before writing this next piece of me-on-paper. The psalmist writes of one who delights in the law of the Lord and likens that person to “a tree planted by streams of water.”

My favorite yoga pose is, coincidentally, called “tree.” I feel resilient as I balance on one foot planted firmly on the ground. Focus and determination make me feel like me, like despite the fact that I have little flexibility, confidence, or physical strength, at least I can summon stamina and a heck of a will. Perhaps, though, next time I’m in tree pose, I’ll lay aside my own conjuring of will and stamina for a moment and add a verse to my rotation. 

“She is like a tree planted by streams of water.” 

My personality type as well as my identity as a wife and mother feel threatened by my inherent neediness.

After I picture praise and lack of condemnation covering me, I’ll imagine living water filling me. I inherently resist the idea that I can or should receive from God, much less from others. Every bit of grace, kindness, or love offered to me elicits a taunting voice, “If you receive this gift, you’ll be acknowledging that you have needs.” My personality type as well as my identity as a wife and mother feel threatened by my inherent neediness. I know no fear like the fear of acknowledging that I am incomplete.

Ever so slowly, I am learning that God does not resent my needs. Years of being loved by family members and friends testify to me that the people around me don’t resent this fact either—that you likely don’t. I long for the day when I am paid a compliment, or encouraged, or profoundly aware of the love of God, and I do not instinctively deflect. 

Maybe you dream about a similar someday. Perhaps you, too, can almost taste the sweetness of a moment in which you hear you are loved, or seen, or wanted, and you merely receive the aptly spoken words as truth. Maybe instead of fear, we’ll look forward together to Mondays bringing joy.

Abby Perry
Abby Perry has written for The Gospel Coalition, Christ and Pop Culture, and Upwrite Magazine. She is a co-host of the Shalom in the City podcast with Osheta Moore and coordinates communications for a non-profit organization. Abby co-facilitates community efforts in racial reconciliation and in support of foster and adoptive families. She currently attends Dallas Theological Seminary and lives with her husband and their two sons in Texas. Find Abby at her website and on Twitter @abbyjperry.

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