You likely know the old saw, “Love is not love ‘till you give it away.” You might have heard it growing up – at church, at school, or at home. When I was a kid, I heard this regularly – often it came out as, “be nice, Lynn!” And once I became a mother, I said it regularly.
Here’s something you might not have heard as often, but which is equally true. Love is not love until you accept it. And, for me anyway, this truth turns out to be a lot harder to live by than “be nice!”
I’m not saying that giving love is easy. Lord knows, I give things besides love most of the time (just ask anyone I’m related to). Still, many of us are told from a very young age that our purpose is to serve, and to help others. I grew up (and still remain) in the Lutheran church, and our version of serving and helping comes out like this. God’s call to every believer (that is, our purpose or vocation) is to love and serve the neighbor. True enough. And yet, is there not a role for the receiver of love and service? Does God not call believers to accept the love and service of others? And is the work of accepting not equally important – in the same way as inhaling is just as critical to life as exhaling is?
I don’t know about you, but I find accepting love way more challenging than offering it. Maybe this is because what I offer to others isn’t really love, but something else. Or maybe it’s because accepting the love of those around me feels selfish, and “not nice.” Maybe it’s because accepting gifts freely given means admitting to having needs. Hard to say – likely all of these contribute.
So here is my challenge. I want to practice accepting God’s love, as it comes to me directly from God, and as it comes to me through those I encounter (especially my friends and family). Just as life gets a whole lot better when a person learns to inhale with as much skill as they have at exhaling, I think life will be better when it’s as easy for me to accept love as it is to offer it. Let me start here. To my friends who are reading this, “Thank you. I accept.”