On the receiving end…

Alison C2 I give you thanks,

O Lord, with all my heart; I will sing your praises before the gods. I bow before your holy temple as I worship. I praise your name for your unfailing love and faithfulness; for your promises are backed by all the honour of your name. As soon as I pray, you answer me; you encourage me by giving me strength.

Psalm 138 v 1-3

Do you find it easy to let people say thank you to you, to express their genuine appreciation for who you are and what you do? I find it hard sometimes, and squirm inwardly, wishing they would just get it over and leave me in peace – especially when I know that my heart has been less than rejoicing in my work, and I feel I don’t deserve any gratitude!

Sometimes, the means that is chosen – the form of the gift, or the actions used – make me uncomfortable. We all have our own preferences and tastes, our own emotional make-up, which affect how we react when presented with gifts which others have chosen. How many primary class teachers actually really love all the gifts and cards they receive from their doting children at the end of the year?! If you are not a demonstrative person, then an enthusiastic hug from someone will have entirely the opposite effect from that which they intend, and you shrink inwardly from their touch.

Over recent weeks, my husband and I have enjoyed celebrations in our church marking the 20th anniversary of his coming to be their minister, and it is truly humbling to have so many people being grateful to us! Would it have been loving of us to dictate in advance the ways in which we were willing to be thanked? Of course not! Our church family love us, and we are privileged to have shared deeply in many of their lives – during great pain and suffering as well as in joy. We are one in Christ Jesus, members of the same body, and ultimately all the glory and praise goes to him for what has been done in our lives. But people need to give voice to their appreciation of one another, indeed this is a ministry of encouragement that we can all practice; it is as though through God’s designing of our natures, we cannot rest until thanks has been given.

So there have been cakes and speeches, cheesy songs, cards, gifts, flowers, a special dinner (for which my poor husband had to get smartly dressed – not a treat as far as he was concerned), and a general feeling of being the focus of attention in a very unusual way. Perhaps we might have preferred not to have had all the fuss, but how loving would that be towards those who have allowed us to serve them and be loved by them?

In the same way that each of us receives love and appreciation in our own particular ways, so also we express them individually. Some will say little, but give privately and generously to a gift. Some will want to make a public statement, others to quietly talk, or give a hug. Does our God reject our thanks because it does not comply to some particular formula? Of course not! (I am beginning to sound a bit like Paul in his letters, my apologies!). Our expressions of love and thanksgiving to God all bring Him delight because they are our true natures, as He designed them to be, glorifying and delighting in Him and all He so generously gives us.

I am trying to learn to love others as God loves me, welcoming me and my thanksgiving – whatever form it takes. In this way, I can learn to model Christ in his acceptance of us – think how shocked everyone was when Jesus allowed the woman to weep over his feet, dry them with her hair, kiss and then anoint them! The teachers of the law would have recoiled in horror, but Jesus accepted her, loved and affirmed her. In my gracious and humble acceptance of the thanks and appreciation of others, may I increasingly demonstrate the staggeringly generous way that God loves and accepts us.

Brace yourself, there’s a hug on the way!!!

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