What does it mean to receive?
These are a couple of the questions I’ve been reflecting on lately.
In our culture of rampant individualism, leaders, particularly within Christianity, have to work stridently against the grain of selfishness. Servant leadership is our modus operandi and intentional self-sacrifice is the path to success. Giving is what good leaders do.
To a point.
I just finished a year leading a group of young adults in an educational and personal growth experience of faith in Christ and engagement with culture. It was exciting, inspiring, and humbling. I prayed for and created space for others to encounter God. It was similar when I was pastor. Personally I can’t imagine a more rewarding area of leadership.
But at times I’ve felt empty. I give much in helping others receive the goodness of God’s love in their lives. I even take pride in how giving I can be! Yet something is often missing. Others are fulfilled, but I’m not. If you’re a leader of any kind, perhaps you can relate.
Unfortunately, in the act leading and giving, this emptiness remains hidden. In my case, giving to others can lead to an ongoing self-neglect. Even worse is I’m often completely unaware of it.
Recently this emptiness became more present to me during a communion service. I entered the room and upon seeing the bread and the cup I instantly felt an intense longing. I’m not an overly emotional person in any circumstance, but my feeling of desire to eat the bread and drink the wine (it was juice actually!) was so persistent that I was overcome by emotion. And then it hit me. I needed to receive. I longed to receive. I had nothing left to give. As we broke bread and drank from the cup, I realized that’s the point. As leaders, we only have so much to give. As Christians, we only give because we have received.
It’s been a timely reminder for me to accept blessing from God and from others. I cannot give endlessly, nor should I. In fact, giving alone is not leadership at all. True leadership comes with mutual giving and receiving. I’m still glad I get to give to others as a leader. But I’m just as glad I get to receive as well.
We love because he first loved us. 1 Jn. 4:19