I’ve heard it said there are two types of people in this world–givers and takers. If you’ve read many of my posts, you probably know my husband is a giver. He’ll give and give and give, without complaining, expecting nothing in return. If I’m not careful, it can be easy to take advantage of this situation. Combine his sacrificial nature with my self-absorbed, goal-oriented side and you’ve got a recipe for disaster. Which is why I keep post-it notes sprinkled around the house, on mirrors, taped to the coffee pot, or any other surface my eyes might scan in a given day. These constant love-reminders help balance out my perpetual self-love.
If you’ve got a giving friend, you know exactly what I’m talking about. We all love it when others are focused on us, right? Because that’s what we’re focused on, too. It’s natural. And it’s easy to get swept away in the its-all-about-me-tide. Unless you determine to do otherwise. Because chances are the friend who keeps on giving has a reciprocal need in there somewhere. And as his/her friend, its your job to find it. But that’s going to take work. You’re gonna have to u-turn once in awhile, learn to listen, ask open-ended questions. Whatever. Just take your eyes off yourself. (Yes, I’m talking to me. It’s not about me. It’s not about me. It’s not about me. There, I think I got it.)
I’ve also had enough takers in my life to know the feeling of being a well-trodden doormat. It hurts, especially when the relationship is one-sided. Authentic friendships are mutual. Reciprocal. Built on give-and-take.
Which means those lone rangers out saving the world need to learn to take a little, too. One night (a few years back) I was sitting in the office watching our neighbor mow her lawn while her two young kids cried for her attention. My husband was watching a ball game. My parentally-allergic daughter was playing with friends. I had two hours, maybe more, to myself. And yet, I remembered those times of crying children, when taking a shower felt like a luxury. So what’d I do? Offer a quick prayer on my neighbor’s behalf then go my merry way? No, I jumped up, ran out the door, and offered to help.
And she politely declined, of course.
So I offered again. To be honest, I felt a bit pushy. Even kind of embarrassed, but I believed God wanted to love this woman through me so I determined to be obedient to God, regardless of the results.
She declined again.
It was hot. Like skin-blistering, lung-stifling hot. Her kids were crying. Exhaustion was etched across her sweaty, blotchy face. Her yard was huge and mowing it would take at least an hour, probably two. Two precious Mommy-Kiddo-hours she’d never get back. (Both her and her husband worked long hours as they struggled to make ends meet and juggle all the demands that came with raising a family in today’s dual-income world.)
So what’d I do? Walk away with a “Well, I tried”, self-righteous pat on the back? Oh, how we love those moments—when God calls us to do something but we find the convenient loop-hole.
No. I lovingly, but firmly, maneuvered my way between her and the lawn mower and began to mow. At first she just kind of stood there, eyes wide, face flashing between gratitude and mortification so fast it looked like a silent film on fast forward. But within ten minutes she was playing with her kids, smiles on all their faces. And I was beaming. By allowing me to be obedient to God, she also allowed me to experience God’s love as it poured through me to her. It feels great when God loves on us, but that’s nothing compared to the heart-bulging, giggle-producing pleasure of experiencing God’s love for someone else first-hand.
So again I ask, are you a giver or a taker? And how might you go about striking a God-intended balance?
Romans 12:9-13 “Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other. Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically. Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying. When God’s people are needy, be ready to help them. Always be eager to practice hospitality.” (NLT)