Recently I have been practicing the discipline of receiving. While this may not sound like much of a discipline, I am finding that it is not always easy. What do I mean by the discipline of receiving? I am being more intentional about looking for ways that God may wants to bless me. It may not sound easy, but it can be. At least, it's often difficult for me because receiving God's blessings often requires relinquishing my own plans and ideas of what is best for me.
Let me be clear, I am not talking about a "health and wealth" type of blessing. It's all too easy for me to accept that kind of blessing. Instead, I often have a difficult time accepting God's grace and peace. I try to do everything on my own and put too much trust in my own accomplishments. At the end of each day I feel best about myself when I can recite a list of things I have accomplished. As in, "Today I worked for four hours at IVP, cleaned the house and took the kids to the park. It was a good day." The underlying assumption to this type of thinking is that my value is directly related to what I do or accomplish each day instead of who I am.
This doesn't leave much room for God's grace or peace. I usually rush through each day and things like playing with my kids and praying become "tasks" I "should" accomplish rather than relational gifts. Instead of experiencing God's grace and peace, I feel stressed and guilty. Instead of receiving God's blessings for me I try and earn his favor. How silly.
One Sunday I was feeling particularly stressed and worn out. "I really need some time to myself today," I thought. "I'll escape into a good book for the afternoon." I'd been reading for all of five minutes when Josiah ran up and declared, "I want to play tennis. Can we go play tennis?" I stopped reading for a moment to consider his request. Maybe Al would be willing to take him. I could stay home and put in a video to keep Elijah occupied. Then I remembered my spiritual director's comment that I look for ways to have more fun, to receive fun as a gift from God. (As a "one" on the enneagram, "fun" is a sign of health for me.)
Hmmm, I thought, maybe God is inviting me to have fun with my family today... So instead of being self-absorbed and clinging to my perceived need to read for awhile, I went out to play tennis with my family. And do you know what? I had fun. I had more fun than I would have had reading my book. The physical activity was good for my physical health, the connection with family was good for my emotional health and my awareness of this simple thing as a gift from God was good for my spiritual health. And by receiving this gift from God I blessed my family. Al and I felt more connected as a couple and as parents and both of our kids had fun.
I think the discipline of receiving is related to God's will, but from a different perspective than I am used to. Instead of asking, "What is God's will for me today? What does God want me to do?" I am asking, "What does God desire for me today and how can I best respond?" The focus shifts from me and what I can do for God to what God wants to do in my life. When I receive and accept God's desire for me, I find that his desire (his "will") often blesses me so that I can bless others. Not every blessing looks like a good gift when it is first offered, but when I decide to accept something as a gift from God it often ends up blessing me in a way I did not expect.
So I am continuing to look for simple ways to receive God's blessings each day. Sometimes that means choosing to have fun instead of completing one more task. Other times it means taking a moment of quiet to connect with God or someone else in the midst of a busy schedule. I am finding that I feel more at peace and less self-reliant and that God's blessings to me often make me a blessing to someone else.