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Thursday, January 14, 2010

What I’m Reading Today: Romans 4

When I was a candidate in the ordination process, one of my mentors suggested I read a short book by Melvin Wheatley called “Christmas is for Celebrating”. When he first made the suggestion, I wasn’t too thrilled. After all, at any given time during my seminary career I was reading somewhere between three and six books. “Don’t worry,” Tom smiled sheepishly as he read me like a book. “It’s short.”

By the time I finished the book, I completely understood why my mentor recommended it. It was the kind of book that transforms lives on several levels. There was one chapter in particular that caught my eye. The chapter had to do with the importance of receiving. Our depth of our spiritual lives as Christians, Wheatley noted, is related to our willingness to open ourselves to the receipt of God’s grace. The more of God’s grace we receive – the more we have to give.

When I first read that chapter, I hated it! I hated it because I was a terrible receiver. Virtually my whole life had been predicated on my ability to give to others. I was darn good at giving! I rarely if ever slowed down long enough to receive things from others. That’s because (if I were to be totally honest) I thought only weak people were receivers. Strong people like me were givers!

Wheatley’s chapter forced me to confront my bias against receiving and helped ground me in the spirit of the words contained in Romans 4. “If you’re a hard worker and do a good job,” Paul began, “you deserve your pay; we don’t call your wages a gift. But if you see that the job is too big for you, that it’s something only God can do, and you trust God to do it – you could never do it for yourself no matter how hard and long you worked – well, that trusting-God-to-do-it is what gets you set right with God, by God. Sheer gift” (Romans 4:4-5 from The Message).

As I have grown in my ability to embrace those words over the years, I’ve found an amazing sense of freedom. I’ve come to accept the multitudes of my own limitations and see myself for what I primarily am: a receiver and not a giver.

So how about you? Would you consider yourself primarily a giver or receiver – or some combination of the two?

Til next time…

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