Give and You Will Receive
Knowing and doing aren’t the same thing. In my last Experiment in Becoming Human, I wrote about ceasing to try and get something from others, and being set free to give. “In quietness and confidence shall be your strength,” God’s promise told me, His love was all I needed. But living out that promise is another thing.
So once again I prayed. God’s silent-but-certain voice answered, “You’ve been focused on the what. Now focus on the how.”
Over and over again, Jesus tells us to give others the thing we want. It’s a paradox (to us, not to God). And yet, strangely (to us, not to God), the only thing we really have to give to others is the thing we want. The core thing, that is, not “I want a Philly cheesesteak, so I’ll give you one,” but the thing we really want.
And the thing I really want from others (I’m embarrassed to admit) is their attention, to be appreciated and understood, which tells me I’m accepted and loved. And therein lies the challenge, the how. Jesus tells us to think in reverse. We think, “If they earn my attention, I’ll give it to them.” But Jesus says, “No, give it first.” We think, “If they stop being my enemy, I’ll love them.” But Jesus says, “No, love them first.” Not only does He insist on this, He tells us it’s the essence of Life with a capital L, the thing that is so desperately missing in our world.
The first time I ever tried to ski, the instructor told me to lean forward. But every nerve in my body told me to lean backward. So I leaned backward, and again and again I fell backward. Still, I thought, “Once I’m a skier I’ll be able to do it.” “No,” the instructor said, “do it and then you’ll be a skier.”
So my new how, my challenge, when every nerve in my body is telling me to to lean backward and make others listen to me, is to lean forward and listen to them.
There’s a famous two-part illustration which you may have heard, but it bears repeating: In the first part, a vision of hell, people are sitting around a lavish banquet table with spoons attached to their hands. But while their spoons can reach the food, the spoons are too long to reach their mouths. In the second vision, a vision of heaven, the same scene appears, paradoxically. Only this time, the diners have learned…
To feed each other.