James 1:17 New International Version (NIV)
17 Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows
My favourite walk in Britain is across the road from where I live. In places it has almost 360 degree views across the beautiful Oxfordshire countryside; rolling hills covered in fields of lush green and yellow rapeseed at this time of year, trees of many kinds and colours, a hint of a river in the valley and noisy skylarks hovering above.
I found this walk soon after we moved here to theological college (my husband is training to be an Anglican Priest) last September when I was 4 months pregnant with our first child. Felicity Elizabeth was born in February this year (2018) – what a mind-blowing miracle it all is. When she was a few weeks old I put her in the sling and went on this walk. It was a beautiful day, though pretty windy and I was forever checking Felicity was still breathing!
No one else was around and the stunning landscape I suddenly found myself talking to God, providing Him with the long list of blessings He had given to me: my beautiful baby girl, my gorgeous husband, my awesome mum and brother, my lovely in-laws, fabulous friends, the community we live in, the stunning scenery, to name a few. I was so overcome that I started crying – in a field! Thankfully I was alone (probably slightly hormone related).
I hadn’t properly spoken to God, one-to-one, for a while. I had been patiently waiting for my faith to become ‘personal’ again – which, FYI, is quite tricky when you are running around being busy! I have heard so many times that you can’t have a relationship with someone if you don’t give them your time, or your ear; therefore it’s the same with God.
In that moment, on that Oxfordshire hill top, I was close to Him, I was giving Him my attention, my heart, my ear. And I was thankful for that too.
So I have a question – does anyone else, besides me, put fun, enjoyable or relaxing things to the bottom of their to-do list? Do you prioritise cleaning, admin, shopping above me-time (including God-time)? Does this result in you rarely (or never!) doing the things you really love to do?
Well, that’s definitely me! That’s why it took me almost 2 months to finally sit down and write this blog!
And this realisation got me thinking – why is it that I try to ‘earn’ everything, why can’t I just ‘receive’? This verse from James talks about gifts from God – a gift isn’t earned, it is received. When I give my friend a birthday gift, I don’t expect them to have done the washing up first!
If my favourite walk in Britain is across the road from my home, why don’t I walk it every day (perhaps letting me off when it is cold, wet and miserable)? It’s a treat after all: beautiful, very easy to get to, and great exercise.
I realised that I was in the habit of asking myself if I ‘deserve’ it. And perhaps that is the crux of this whole matter – the fun, easy things on our to-do lists are put to the bottom of the pile because we are terrible receivers!
That’s right, we try to earn everything: every rest, every break, every moment of fun and joy, we try to earn. If we do the boring chores, rush around the supermarket, go to the post office, put the washing on, feed the baby, put the dryer on, put the washing on again (wow, small people create a lot of laundry!), feed the baby again, cook, clean the bathroom, deal with the explosive nappy, tidy the house, after all that, THEN we can do something fun and relaxing like reading a book or a magazine, going for a walk or writing a blog! The trouble is that by the time we get to that point we are either too exhausted or it is time for bed.
How good are you at receiving? When I say receiving I mean with no strings attached, not earned in any way, just a free gift.
The other night I was up feeding Felicity; this is usually a half hour affair with 10 minutes to feed and 20 minutes to wind (after a period of projectile vomiting I am so afraid to put her down too quickly, especially at night). It was 4am by this point and I had put her on my shoulder to take her back to our room. I was so tired and not really ‘in the moment’ until that point, I was just doing another ‘task’. But then I paused to enjoy the sleepy cuddle with her – her little head on my shoulder and her tiny breath on my neck – an amazing miracle of a new little life. 4am wake-up calls will not last forever, but neither will this.
God is a gracious, compassionate and generous giver. He gives to us ‘good and perfect gifts’ – he is gracious in His giving, meaning God gives us what we don’t deserve. We don’t earn God’s gifts or His blessings – He gives them freely. Therefore we should receive them joyfully and without guilt.
So the next day after thinking up this blog post I went on my favourite walk again – it’s across the road, no effort required, why not treat myself. Half way round, with Felicity in the sling, I pulled out of my pocket a draft policy that my mum had sent me to have a read of – I was planning on reading this on the walk! That’s right, I was trying to tick something off the to-do list. As I got it out I stopped myself – this was a ridiculous idea; I folded it and put it away and continued the walk. I’m sure God had a giggle!