This is a very sad time. We are fighting where we should be loving. I do not just mean fighting a war (or wars)...it is more than that. I think we are fighting in all areas of life against the very ones who need us, and the very ones who can give us what we need. Because what we need is simple: more than anything, people need love. Now, I do not mean love in the Hallmark sense; what I mean is real, true, devoted love and compassion. Few people experience it once in their lives, I fear.
Today I tried to go out of my way to do something nice for some friends. Of course this was only a small favor, something so small I am ashamed to admit how small the good I did was when the good I leave undone every day is so great. But I told them I would do a favor for them. What do you think they did? They resisted. They said they no longer wanted the very thing they had asked for a few minutes ago. Why is this? Why will human beings resist the very help they ask for when it is offered to them? There used to be a name for wanting to do everything for yourself and despising the compassion of others: it was called pride. And it used to be a bad thing. But this was not pride; I do not fault my friends. Simply we are not used to accepting things from others. We want to feel that we have earned everything we have. If something is a gift, we feel we have somehow cheated (or been cheated), and we reject it and, most likely, the person bearing it.
Why is this? Around Christmas time we all go mad for gifts. But I think it is not really the gifts we want. How often do fully functional adults get things for Christmas that they could not otherwise afford? These are not really gifts; they are material tokens of goodwill. And this is fine. I like to receive these tokens as much as the next person. But I know that if I don't get what I "want" for Christmas, I can simply buy it myself if I save up enough money.
I think a gift is something that we cannot possibly, because of whatever circumstances, procure for ourselves. If a co-worker brings me back a cookie at lunch, that is a token of goodwill. I am appreciative. But if that same co-worker offers to bring me dinner at home when I am shut in with illness, I resist. Surely there is some other intention; surely he really means to somehow take advantage of me. Surely I cannot inconvenience my fellow worker in receiving this gift. Is this because, deep down, I know I would not do the same for him?
There is a line in a song by Over the Rhine that I like. The song is called "All I Need is Everything", and in the song is the line, "There's nothing harder than learning how to receive." I think this is a perfect description of what is wrong with our hearts: we know we can get, we know we can achieve, we know we can create; but we do not know how to receive. If we cannot work for it, we do not want it. And this is a shame, because often times the things we so desperately need at our weakest moments are just those things we are too proud to receive.
I do not know how we can make ourselves better at receiving. Or perhaps we should wait to receive the gift of receiving! This is just silly talk, though. Many people probably will not even admit that there is anything they need which they cannot get for themselves. But look at their lives: look at the very areas where they are the most dissatisfied, and those are the areas where they long to receive but will not. I firmly believe that there is a longing inside of us that can never be fulfilled by any effort of our own, but only by another. In other words, I believe we are created to receive. What are we created to receive? I believe it to be love; for this seems to be about the only thing we cannot make for ourselves. Perhaps I am wrong. Perhaps the matter is more complex than this. Surely it is. But for now, this will do.