Around 9 years ago, when I was still in college, I reached a point of exhaustion in my life and in my relationship with God. Every spare second not spent on school was spent on church-related activity. I was not enjoying this life, but I didn’t really see a better option: After all, God has us here on a mission! Every day, people go to their graves without knowing him. One day in heaven, I thought, I’ll get to rest. But now, we’re at spiritual war! Souls are at stake! You don’t just sit around “relaxing” and “enjoying yourself” when you’re at war!
A conversation I had around this time with one of my friends in the church is burned into my memory. I was feeling completely empty, dried up emotionally and spiritually, wanting nothing more than to just set my responsibilities aside and take a good long break from all my frenetic activity. My friend listened to me empathetically as I poured out how I was feeling and worked my way around to the only conclusion I could see at the time: “I guess rest is just something we have to do once in a while. It’s a necessary concession to the fact that we are limited and broken human beings. I guess God gave us the Sabbath so we could get the necessary rest we – unfortunately – need in order to get right back to work as quickly as possible.
How wrong I was!
As long as I saw rest as just a necessary evil, a concession to my limited human nature, I don’t think I was capable of really resting. There was always a part of me feeling guilty for taking that time off of getting things done, doing things that “really matter”.
The truth is much more wonderful. Scripturally, BEing always comes before DOing. First of all, before God ever did anything, he existed for eternity in relationship with himself, just being and enjoying his own existence. Then, God intentionally made humans to be dependent creatures. We are needy by nature. This isn’t a concession to our brokenness; it’s how he wanted us to be! In fact, our brokenness (let’s call it sin) is usually what leads us to reject our neediness, to refuse to be weak.
When we’re living as God intended us to, being always comes before doing; receiving always comes before giving.
Let me say that again so you can really question whether you agree with me: When we’re living as God intended us to, receiving always comes before giving.
Wait a minute… Didn’t Jesus say “It is more blessed to give than to receive”? (Yes, he did. Acts 20:35 tells us so.)
So am I contradicting Jesus? What do you think? This is an important question, because if I’m right then you should be very careful about ever giving anything if you haven’t received first.
More to come.