by Becky Porter
I pulled out a pair of crocheted pot holders shaped like roosters.
She was so excited to tell me all about the work that had gone into them, and how much she loved and appreciated my husband and his counselors. Her gift was a deeply heartfelt expression of love.
I had no idea what to say as thoughts traveled through my head. I know I thanked her and hugged her and went back to my lunch.
I am deeply ashamed now by the nature of those thoughts. . .ashamed that my thoughts were more about myself and the decoration of my kitchen than about this sweet lady.
And I can still vividly recall the stinging rebuke I received later that day from my Heavenly Father. I have rarely felt such a deep sense that I have disappointed Him. I do not like to think about it, but I know it is good to remember and be humbled anew.
We speak much during the Christmas season about the importance of giving and rightly so. Our Savior is an example of service to others, and I try hard to follow His example and teach my children the pleasure of giving.
However, our Savior is also the greatest example of humble and gracious receiving. Think of the touching imagery of the woman, a sinner like us all, who anointed his feet with oil and wiped his feet with her hair. Jesus graciously accepted this service and spoke kind, loving words to her and about her.
Later, in a similar scenario, the Lord taught Peter about receiving. As Jesus went around the table, washing his apostle's feet, Peter protested.
"Peter saith unto him, Thou shalt never wash my feet. Jesus answered him, If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me" (John 13:8).
This scripture has many layers of meaning for me. One of these is a reminder that as we both give and receive service, we are drawn closer together. We would have no one to serve if there was no one to receive. Our hearts are saddened when we offer a gift and it is rejected. Conversely, wards and families are united as we all take turns in the cycle of service.
"And he commanded them that there should be no contention one with another, but that they should look forward with one eye, having one faith and one baptism, having their hearts knit together in unity and in love one towards another" (Mosiah 18:21).
One of the great tenets of our faith is that of self-reliance. I can personally attest to the joy that comes as we actively strive to further our education, manage our finances, and take care of ourselves. But I also know that there is a fine line between self-reliance and pride. When we go out of our way to make it difficult for others to serve us, we have crossed that line. When we are unwilling to share our burdens with others, we close ourselves off from that unity we should be honestly seeking. When we are given a gift and we are not gracious in receiving it, we deserve the rebuke of the Lord.
Heavenly Father blessed us with families, home and visiting teachers, priesthood quorums, and Relief Society; we are meant to utilize these gifts. We are supposed to turn to our ward family for help, to allow others into our lives and our hearts, to be a part of the cycle of service. "The Lord had already established the organization needed to bless the poor and needy—priesthood quorums were in place, Relief Societies were organized, and the priesthood of God was on the earth" ("The Strength of Many", LDS.org).
More importantly, as we learn the art of receiving, we learn better how to apply the Atonement of Jesus Christ. We cannot accept this glorious gift if we have become so "self-reliant" that we feel no need for the Atonement. The gift of the Atonement is freely offered, but we must receive it.
"And as many as have received me, to them have I given to become the sons of God; and even so will I to as many as shall believe on my name, for behold, by me redemption cometh, and in me is the law of Moses fulfilled" (3 Nephi 9:17).
I am grateful this Christmas season and all year long for the great gift of my Savior, Jesus Christ, and I strive each day to be better at receiving and applying that gift in my life.
I am grateful for the lesson I learned from my crocheted chickens. They now sit in a place of honor on my kitchen cupboards, a constant reminder of the art of receiving. Each of their stitches lovingly made is a lesson in how to knit my heart in love with those around me as I both give and receive. Each day they become more precious and beautiful to me.