I have two primary love languages, gifts and acts of service. Gifts are always more than just the gift itself. I actually really don’t care for holidays where gift giving is expected… don’t give me a gift because you have to. Christmas stresses me out, the expectation to give so many gifts and the stress of receiving gifts because someone felt like they had to give me something…I know, terrible, right? But I want gifts to mean something. I like to give and receive gifts that are uniquely chosen for the individual, because I know you and you know me. Some of my most favorite gifts have been very silly, precious to me because the giver knew me, knew what would make me smile, knew what would touch my heart. Acts of service are often tied up in gifts for me, they often feel one in the same. I would choose an act of service as a gift any day! Combining the two is a huge win, it is one of the reasons my prayer garden means so much to me. It was a gift, built by my son, Anthony, as he was leaving for college. That’s love, perfectly given in an act of service as a gift!
I have really been struggling lately because of the pain I feel when a gift is not received the way I intended it to be received or not at all. Gifts or acts of service that I give because I want someone to know how important they are, to me, in general or especially, to the Lord. My struggle is in understanding that how the gift is received is actually none of business at all, yet my feelings want to tell me that a gift or act of service not received is a personal rejection. A rejection of who I am. The truth is, that my love is given because that is what we do with love, we give it and we show it, how the other person chooses to receive it, is all on them. The only thing I have control over is whether to love or not and whether to show it or not.
When I put myself into something and then it isn’t received I want to use it as an excuse to stop. Stop loving, stop showing love, stop putting myself out there, stop trying… I want to retreat to a place where rejection cannot find me. It is hard. To love. To give gifts of love. To give acts of love. And for them to not be received. Or worse, for them to be received and found lacking. I think I would rather a gift not be received rather than be brushed off, dismissed, or to be taken as something not really worthy. My feelings hurt and ask me to withdraw. Just stop. This isn’t worth it. Don’t put yourself out there again. It will not ever be enough, so why bother trying. I want to stop giving.
As my heart has ben hurting and the Lord and I have been working things out… I opened a book I had begun (and stopped) reading a few months ago, it was marked to the page about the nature of a gift…
“The best gift requires little of its recipient. The giver doesn’t say “I worked hard to bring you this gift, you must love it, use it, embrace it, you must be grateful to me in recompense for how much I put into this gift. This gift controls you.”… When you overstate the obligation of the audience, of course they’ll let you down, and when they do, you don’t have to show up again. What a great excuse to stop making your art, to hide… It’s not your turn to win, or your turn to be picked, or even your turn to be guaranteed gratitude… It’s merely your turn to give a gift. **
As I think about moving forward and the days ahead… I love. Because He first loved me. Thankfully His love is never contingent upon how I choose to receive it, respond to it, appreciate it, or show gratitude for it. Thankfully He has never, not once, chosen to hide. To stop trying. Stop giving. It’s always my turn to give a gift of love because I have been overwhelmed, continually, with the gift of His love. He hasn’t asked anything in return for His love, grace, and mercy, although I often try to make it a barter or transaction based gift, it is freely given to be freely received. I take the risk of loving, of giving and potentially feeling the sting of rejection, because it is my turn to give a gift. It is what we do. We love and we hurt. But we don’t stop and we don’t hide. Imagine how lonely and sad the world would be if we all listened to our feelings and stopped giving the gift of ourselves.
** Seth Godin’s book, What To Do When It’s Your Turn. I highly recommend it, very encouraging, motivating and fun!