So there you are. You find yourself at the center of attention being celebrated or honored in some way for your public service, athletic achievement, professional milestone or academic success. The list could go on but we’ve all experienced a compliment, praise or applause in some form or fashion. It feels awkward, so our human default kicks in and we push back. People may be saying kind words about us but we blush, minimize and downplay the adoration.
Our question is, why in our Christian evangelical culture have we been groomed to refuse adoration and praise?
Think about it for a second. When have you ever been given permission to simply recieve? Probably when your life was in shambles, when a crisis hit, as an addiction hit the family or when confronted by divorce, sickness or death. It’s in those moments things are said to you like, “You should take this time to do what’s best for you.” “Take a few days off to relax.” “Just let a few people bring you some meals.” “In the days moving forward, recovery really needs to about you.”
In our Christian culture, why is “receptivity” a reactionary phenomenon and not one of preventative practice?
In early 2007, one of our team members found himself living out of the same default of refusing adoration while anticipating a two year apprenticeship and mentorship with Steve Smith at Potter’s Inn in Colorado. He shared, “I still remember the outdoor seat on the Starbucks patio where I heard these words from Steve, “You don’t wear your belovedness very well. There are things in you that I don’t have that I need from you and you are robbing me of the Christ that is in you. If you’re going to continue to rob me of these things then it’s going to be difficult for us to move forward and have an authentic relationship. It was in that moment that I realized I was being invited to receive adoration…and I only awkwardly sat there. All I heard were words. Nothing sunk in.”
We spend our whole lives pouring out, giving, serving, acting, doing, talking, caring, working, building, planting, going, launching, cleaning, preparing, training, learning, studying, writing, scheming, planning, sending, moving, running…this list could go on forever.
Oh, dear friends, if you are not careful momentum can easily become a thief of intimacy. Momentum can also be a form of self protection, insulating us from a posture of receptivity.
When have you ever been invited to embrace the antonyms of the words above? Words like being poured into, receiving, being served, inaction, being, listening, not caring, resting, tearing down, waiting, remaining, witholding, being messy, unprepared, being enough, unlearning, meditating, looking, being present, reflecting, returning, stillness, walking? Sadly, this list probably won’t make it’s way into any Christian leadership journal.
One of our favorite writers Parker Palmer captures the tension of these two worlds beautifully. “We need a coat with two pockets. In one pocket there is dust, and in the other pocket there is gold. We need a coat with two pockets to remind us who we are.”
Most of us are only familair with the one pocket filled with dust. We’d like to suggest that our true identity is living in the deep wisdom that you are more than just dust…you are also gold! We are far more valuable than what we can produce or accomplish. Everyone knows how to love but so many are far less familiar with being loved. To fully integrate our journey with God, it requires loving and being loved. You can’t have one without the other.
We witness Jesus, all through the Gospels, cultivating a posture of receptivity. Of all the moments in human history that God could have chosen to profess His love for his son, he chose to do so at Jesus’ baptism saying over him, “This is my son, in whom I am well pleased” prior to Jesus having done anything in his ministerial life. Naturally, you’d think a father would announce his love for his son after being honored in some way for public service, an athletic achievement, a professional milestone or some academic success. Instead, God chooses to profess love before Jesus had literally done anything that is recorded in scripture.
We really think that Brennan Manning got it right;
“Come now, wounded, frightened, angry, lonely, empty, and I’ll meet you where you live. And I’ll love you as you are, not as you should be, because you’re never going to be as you should be.’ Do you really believe this? With all the wrong turns you made in your past… the mistakes, the moments of selfishness, dishonesty and degraded love? Do you really believe that Jesus Christ loves you? Not the Person next to you, not the church, not the world. But that He loves you—beyond worthiness and unworthiness, beyond fidelity and infidelity. That he loves you in the morning sun and in the evening rain. Without caution, regret, boundary, limit. No matter what’s gone down, He can’t stop loving you. This is the Jesus of the Gospels.”
So, the next time someone starts to celebrate or bless you, maybe consider thinking twice about actually receiving it. We know it’s our default to refuse it but please don’t walk away. You can hear this!
THOUGHT TO CONSIDER:
When someone adores, blesses or celebrates you, what are some of your own thoughts, feelings and reactions in considering receiving it?