A full cup reminds us of God's goodness. And how we have a difficult time accepting His gifts.
Arriving at Starbucks I breathed in deeply the smells of espresso and steamed milk. I had been in a hurry most of the afternoon and wasn't in the mood for coffee, and so I decided on the hot caramel apple cider and peeked in my wallet to see just what size I could afford. I decided on the medium size — grande.
The barista at the counter asked me for my order. He gave me an "I'm sorry" look and proceeded to explain that they were completely out of caramel apple cider. But if I had time, he offered to make me one cider in about 20 minutes when another employee would return with the ingredients. I gladly agreed to wait.
Thirty minutes later, the barista stopped by my table and said he had my drink. When I got to the register he placed in front of me the largest hot caramel apple cider drink I've ever had — a venti size. With a puzzled look on my face, I took the drink he handed me. He apologized for the wait and explained that he was giving me the venti for the smallest-sized price. I paid him for the drink and smiled as I walked back to my table.
A half hour into my cider, a different barista stopped by my table to deliver me another venti drink. He had overheard my caramel apple cider dilemma, but didn't realize that I'd already been taken care of. I couldn't help but chuckle and handed the second drink back to him, thanking him and explaining the situation.
As I walked to my car with a cold, mostly-empty cup of cider I found myself thinking about how much God promises to give me. And how little I accept. Why is it easier, I wondered, for me to accept a discounted hot drink than God's abundance?
Better to Give Than Receive?
I'm better at being the giver than the receiver, although in both situations God is still rewiring my thinking. My giving sometimes seeks the approval of the receiver; or I only accept a gift if I can find some way to eventually pay him or her back.
Once in a while I catch myself saying "Are you sure?" when someone offers me something nice. Of course, it bugs me when people ask those questions when I offer them something. If I weren't sure about what I was giving them, I want to say, I wouldn't have made the offer. And yet that's too often my first response when I'm given something, trying to provide the giver an out.
In Matthew 18 there's a parable about the king's servant and the debt he owed. I never thought I'd relate to this servant, but I do.
Therefore the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. As he began the settlement, a man who owned him ten thousand talents was brought to him. Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt. The servant fell on his knees before him, "Be patient with me," he begged, "and I will pay back everything." The servant's master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go (Matthew 18:23-26).
It's said that this guy's debt was equivalent to almost $10 million. You'd think that after getting off scot-free the servant would've thanked the king. Instead, he was on a hunt for the guy who owed him money. Every other time I heard this I thought, What a jerk. But this time I paid more attention to what the servant actually asked the king before he was pardoned. He asked for the king's patience in order to repay the debt.
In a book I'm reading, The Search for Significance by Robert S. McGee, this familiar story began to look differently as talked about from another perspective. "The king's servant apparently did not believe he had been forgiven and was trying to collect enough money to pay back the debt. He took the king's words to mean, 'I'll give you a little more time. Work hard and pay me back.' But the king offered total forgiveness by canceling the debt."
I don't know if this was in fact the case, but it brings up an interesting question. Did this guy have a hearing problem or a heart problem? It seems foolish not to live like you've just had your debt completely canceled. If I had begged the bank for more time on my college loans and they decided my debt was cancelled, surely I'd be overjoyed. Being free of a debt like that would allow me to do life in a different way. That's exactly what I'm given in Christ, but instead I often put on a false humility mask (aka pride) and neither accept nor live in what I've been given.
Living Free and Thankful
Closing your eyes and repeating, "I'm living free. I'm living free. I'm living free," doesn't usually help that truth sink in. I've tried it. And waiting until you feel free isn't a good indicator either. How is this lived out? Here are ways I've learned to add freedom and thanksgiving to my life.
Realize who I am. If Christ is my Lord, then I can confidently say that I'm forgiven (Colossians 2:13-14), His child (John 1:12), declared righteous (2 Corinthians 5:21), accepted by God (Colossians 1:19-22) and have Him living in me (Colossians 1:27). Memorizing these truths is slowly changing the ways I live and respond.
Recognize God's ways. Maybe He will show up in a significant conversation, lunch paid by a friend, a discounted Starbucks drink, a verse that gives clarity and direction. The more I see His fingerprints each day, the more I find myself looking for them.
Receive gratefully. When I'm given something my first response is, "You didn't have to do that." Obviously she didn't have to do anything for me, but she did. Is my response trying to relieve her of feeling obligated? Giving shouldn't be about obligation. Instead of second-guessing someone's motive, I try to tell him or her thank you.
Resist the tendency to repay. As someone pays me a compliment do I get the urge to respond with a compliment? Acting on that urge engrains in my mind that I can't accept what I've been given as is; and I need to find some way to pay the fee. This isn't what Christ's love is about. He gives without strings attached (1 John 4:9-10).
That evening at Starbucks I went up to the counter thinking I'd order what I could afford — nothing more than that. Yet I left with more caramel apple cider than I could drink. Accepting more can be hard for me to put into practice. But that's exactly how God wants me to live, gratefully receiving the more He wants to give me. He truly is "able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us" (Ephesians 3:20).
Copyright 2006 Krishana Kraft. All rights reserved.