I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.
My grandmother always wanted to cook for her family. As the mother of six boys, this must have felt like a natural way to demonstrate her love. No matter what time of day I visited, she’d feed me. We shared political conversations over hot chocolate stirred with candy canes and discussions of relationships with hamloaf. We ate Rice Krispy treats with chocolate chips while my kids played.
Each time she would try to send food home with me, usually soup. She'd recite a litany of soups that were in her freezer ranging from carrot ginger (delicious) to the frightening food processor concoction salad soup (I was only offered that once, but it was memorable).
More often than not, I'd turn her down. I felt guilty about taking food from her. "No thanks," I’d say, "we have plenty of food." Or, "I already have dinner planned," even if I didn’t.
I said those things because as a young wife and mom I thought I should already have dinner planned for the day, if not the week. Once, I was talking about this with a friend who was far wiser than I. She looked at me like I had three heads when I told her I always turned down the food.
Don’t you know taking is a form of giving?
The question stunned me. I never had thought of it that way. I thought my taking a dinner was an admission of defeat, a way of saying that I didn’t or couldn’t do it on my own. I never thought that I was denying my grandmother the opportunity to give her love to me in something tangible, to bless me with something she made. I didn’t think that taking her food was a way of strengthening our relationship. I was more concerned about the image I was trying to live up to than what the offer of frozen soup might mean to her.
So often, this is the nature of my sin, to think only about myself. To be so concerned about my image or what people or thinking that I fail to be who I truly am. It is better to give than to receive, right? Giving is empowering. Receiving is humbling. I like to be the giver not the receiver.
Jesus says, Love one another just as I have loved you.
In the gospels, we see Jesus give and receive--serve AND sit back and be served. Love gives selflessly. But love also receives gracefully. I am called to use my gifts to bless others and drop my pretenses long enough to be blessed. Loving fully means recognizing that blessing and relationship can come in the form of a hamloaf or a Rice Krispy treat. Or even salad soup.