Laurie Coombs is a passionate writer and speaker on the issues of forgiveness, redemption, and the hope found in Jesus. She is the author of Letters from My Father’s Murderer: A Journey of Forgiveness, an incredible true story of grace, mercy, and the redemptive power of God. Her story was featured in Billy Graham’s film, Heaven, as well as on many other national and regional radio and television programs. She is a contributor to Zondervan’s NIV Bible for Women and writes at LaurieCoombs.org. Laurie and her husband, Travis, make their home in Nevada along with their three daughters.
I'm going to let you in on a little known secret about myself. It's something that only those closest to me know, and it's defiantly something God has been working on with me for quite some time. Are you ready? Here it is––
I have a hard time receiving.
Small gifts? Not so much. But anything that can be considered extravagant? Oh yes, friends––that fits the bill. Gifts of this magnitude immediately make me cringe and think, "I can't accept this!" while knowing I also cannot not receive a gift someone has so thoughtfully given to me. And so I am left in an uncomfortable predicament, with my heart screaming "don't take it!" and my mouth saying, "Thank you! You shouldn't have done this."
Now, here's the interesting part. I love to give. I always have.
I remember being on family vacations on a lake as a little girl, asking all of my cousins what treats they would like from the marina so I could purchase their selection with my allowance. I remember walking up to the store, with joyful anticipation of making hearts happy. I remember purchasing my gifts with pride. And I remember handing those treats out upon my return, seeing a twinkle in my cousins' eyes in anticipation of the pure yumminess of what they were about to enjoy.
Giving had brought joy to my heart. But it wasn't only the giving of stuff that gave me this joy, but the giving of my time and abilities as well.
I have always had a unique role within my family. Because of my sister's disabilities, I took on the role of "helper" in my family. Early on in life, my mom relied on me to aide my sister when she could not. Despite the fact that I was the youngest of the three kids, I was the one Mom turned to for help, which grew in me a sense of pride in my strength and in the position I held within my family.
As a teenager, my parents divorced, and the helper-role within my family intensified as I tried to hold all things together in the midst of great turmoil. As my family seemed to fall apart around me, I felt I needed to be strong to see us through.
As a result of these circumstances and others, a pattern had formed in my life, and I fell willingly into it. When there was a problem, I chose to be the solution. Time and time again, I placed myself in a position to help others and refused to ever place myself in the vulnerable position of needing help, myself.
As a young 20-somenting, this pattern continued. Even in the face of my dad's murder, I maintained the position of strength. Refusing to be weak, I thought that I didn't need help, and that I could get through this terrible tragedy by my sheer strength. And I did (for the most part).
All the while, throughout all of these event––beginning the moment I first became aware of my position in my family––pride began to swell in my heart. And I began to think things like:
I am strong.
I don't need anyone to help me.
I can get through anything on my own.
I mean, after all, I had made it through the enormity of my Dad's murder.
Nothing can conquer me.
Do you see the pride? Egh, it was dropping from me like honey from a honeycomb, though it wasn't sweet. Fueled by pride, I was becoming a monster.
Well, as they say, pride comes before the fall. And the greater the pride, the harder the fall.
So, I fell. And fell hard! Suddenly, I had become weak, and all sense of strength had been drained. The pendulum had swung far to the other side, and I found myself in a position of immense need. When lying in the deepest crevice of my pit, through tears that never seemed to cease, I remember hearing myself involuntarily say, "I'm the one who gives help. I'm not the one who needs it."
I had become my own savior––my own god.
The little girl with a beautiful heart for giving had turned into a self-seeking, self-sufficient woman who helped others and maintained a false sense of strength in order to fuel her own pride. And I honestly believe I had a difficult time receiving gifts from others because I subconsciously wanted to maintain some sense of superiority. I was the giver, not the receiver. I was the the one in the position of power. Receiving requires humility, of which I had none.
But God met me in my weakness, beckoning me to receive Him. To receive His salvation, His love. And in my desperation, I was given grace to finally learned how to receive. All pride had gone out the window, for God had effectively humbled me so that I could receive life. And that is precisely what I have been given. The most extravagant gift one can receive––God, Himself. Life.
Since giving my life to Jesus, I have been continually challenged by God to receive, and by His grace, I am growing in this area. Every day, I am reminded to receive God. To receive His love, His mercy, His grace, His healing, and all He delights to blessing me with. I thank God I am not still sitting upon that self-exaulted pedestal I had put myself on. And when gifts are given––regardless of how extravagant––I now choose to humble myself and receive the blessing extended to me.
I have come a long way, thanks to the grace of God!