When Taking Is Giving: A Lesson on Food and Love

child giving yellow flowers
Image by lassensurf from Pixabay

What Do I Even Take From You?

That dagger was thrust at me by someone I love very much. Someone close who declines invitations for meals. Someone who doesn’t realize that sometimes to receive is to give—that sometimes not to take is to take.

Honestly, before this week I hadn’t realized it either. I had never thought about giving and taking this way. Not until I learned a new word.

Enter lambano. It’s a Greek word occurs about 260 times in the New Testament. About half the time, lambano is translated “receive,” as in Matthew 7:8, “Whoever asks, receives,” and Matthew 20:10, “He received a denarius.”

Nothing to write home about. But there’s more. Lambano is also translated “take,” as in Matthew 5:50, “If anyone wants to take your tunic,” and Matthew 10:38, “Take up your cross.”

Yes, and? Why does lambano deserve its own post? And what even does it have to do with my dagger wound?

What you don’t take is what you take.

Picture a chubby little palm holding out dandelions, or yellow forsythia blossoms. Not to receive them would be cruel.

What did you even take?

I answered the one I love with tears first. Then this.

You took my joy. By not taking, by not eating with me, you deprive me the pleasure of giving.

Because sometimes the best gift we can give is lambano—to take and to receive. Conversely, sometimes the most heartless thing we can do is not to take a thing.

Which reminds me of The Count of Monte Cristo. I read it 20 years ago, but that scene is etched. Near the end of the book, the Count attends a banquet at his enemy’s home. He will not eat a bite of the rich food offered to him.

Why? Because to eat his food would be a sign of friendship. To not take was to take. Not to eat was a dagger.

God is eager to help.

God wants to feed his children. “Open wide your mouth and I will fill it” (Psalm 89:10b) God himself told the Israelites. He wants us to take food and help, to receive life and health from him. “Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me” (Psalm 50:15). Our Father “hears prayer” (Psalm 65:2), and listens to our pleas (Psalm 66:19).

He wants us to call to him because he wants to give us his help. Our cries for help don’t bother God.

The Psalms in particular celebrate God’s eagerness to hear and help his people in their “day of distress” and “time of trouble.” David testified that God had been to him “a fortress and a refuge in the day of my distress” (Psalm 59:16, also 9:9; 37:39; 41:1).

David Mathis, “God will Answer in Your Crisis

If God calls us to call upon Him and He is eager to give us help, then it’s not a big stretch to think that not receiving his help might actually grieve him (Ephesians 4:30). I’ve written before how “grieve is a love word.” You can’t grieve people who don’t love you.

Which brings me to the dagger.

Taking is giving.

Meals, time, love—this is what I want to give. My dear, when you don’t receive these from me you take.

This little dagger wound and grief is a gift in that it helps me love God more. The perfect Father knows infinitely better than I could ever imagine what it is to have dear ones refuse to receivefrom him. (See Isaiah 30:1-22.)

At their peril they refuse to to take his food, his drink, himself.

All day long, he held out his hands to a rebellious people (Isaiah 65:2). All the while he offers food that will satisfy and water that will quench to the the end (John 6:35, 4:14).

But his people won’t all receive.

What then?

Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you; therefore he will rise up to show you compassion.

Isaiah 30:18a, NIV

Our generous God wants to give. So our good Father longs to give, and in godlike fashion, he exalts himself to show us compassion.

And he waits for us to take.

God wants to give, so take.

The world’s religion are summed up in the idea that you must give something to appease the gods. But the essence of Christianity is the exactly the opposite. We are invited not to give, but lambano, to take.

We can’t bring anything to save or commend ourselves to God, but we can take the salvation He offers.

One of the very last sentences in the Bible includes lambano, take.

The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price.

Revelation 22:17

What an invite! C.H. Spurgeon notes, “All the prophets of the Bible, all the apostles of the Bible, all the threatenings of the Bible, all the promises of the Bible, gather themselves up, and focus themselves into this one burning ray, ‘Come to Jesus. Come, and take the water of life freely.’”

Who could imagine such grace?

So come, take, eat.

Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said,

“Take, eat; this is my body.”

Matthew 26:26, ESV

I Am From: The Roots Of Me

Abigail, Age 2

I Am From

I am from
A hard-rock maple, leaves-in, dining room table
A rusty Ford Granada and Dad’s brassy menorah

I am from
A parsonage beside the red barn church
A little white goat barn and the huge console radio where the Sugar Creek Gang came

I am from
Vegetable field gardens
Whose open arms taught me there’s return on work and never to mind some dirt

I am from
Narnia and Little House on the Prairie
from
Harvey and Elaine and Hazel and Al

from
Hard-working, God-fearing, straight-talkers
from
Hay-baling, deep-thinking, goat-milking farmers

I am from
Football and hymn-sings after Thanksgiving dinner and fish and bread at Easter dawn

from
Dad’s creamy oatmeal and Mom’s squash pumpkin pies
from
Great-great grandpa’s flu-time raising to life
and from
Never knowing vivacious Grandma Joanne

I am from
Weeding rows and milking goats, from hiking country lanes, from a family who whips real cream in stainless steel and prays

And from always God with us.

From always knowing that. From God.

Lord, you have been our dwelling place throughout all generations. Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.

Psalm 90:1-2

🥧 🎶 🌽 📖 🐐 👩‍🌾 ⛪️ 🌱 🦁

👉 Now it’s your turn. Where are you from?

Need help getting started? This site has a 👍 template to help you write your own “I Am From” poem. I’d 💗 to read it when it’s ✅ .

L-R: Harvey & Elaine, Abigail & Jim, Hazel & Al

Humbled by Hyunjin: “Today Also is a Gift”

smiling family

We did it! Hyunjin said, beaming.

Atop the empty grandstand, amid dust kicked up by the Massey hauling plow for the rodeo that night, Hyunjin slapped me one exultant high five.

Why?

Because with 30 minutes of a month to spare, he- we actually- finished HELLO UNIVERSE.

For the record, I don’t recommend HELLO UNIVERSE. The universe with its bright crystals and stars are gods. But it’s a book I’m glad I read because it gave me precious side-by-side time with Hyunjin.

Mother and son holding book
Top row of the grandstand. And, DONE!

The young-adult fiction was assigned by Hyunjin’s English teacher in Korea. With 320 pages, it was Hyunjin’s daunting summer read.

But heaviness  turned to joy in the top row of the grandstand.

Joys Doubled, Twice

Two years ago today, I posted about Kibum. I told you how our joys were doubled and our hearts were wrung by our first Korean exchange son. Wet eyes still come when I think about Kibum. Now they also come reliving the month with Hyunjin.

Which brings me to one of those sweet memories. Most nights before bed, I’d check in with Hyunjin about the next day’s events. That was the drill. So I walked into his room, calendar in hand.

Nine days left, I said.

Nine days? he repeated with urgency and scrambled for paper and pen. Then he did some long division: 238 divided by 9.

Oh! 31 pages, he exclaimed, eyebrows high.

Then I got it. He had nine days to finish an epic-long book written in a foreign language and he had barely begun. I knew what I had to do.

I read with you each day, okay Hyunjin? We sit together and read. We will get it done.

He smiled and sighed and for the last nine days, we did. We sat side by side on the sofa and read. And he taught me snake is pem and cat is goyang-i and I taught him that Prank is different from Frank and Birgil is not how we say Virgil. We learned and laughed.

And it was all joy.

Joy Shared, Joy Doubled

I’ve learned this pretty well, but sometimes I slip back into thinking I’ll be happier if I keep my little joys private. But I know better. Remember, love seeks not its own. Joy shared isn’t halved, it’s doubled!

Three smiling boys hiking trail.

Seeing our humdrum lives through Hyunjin’s fresh eyes proved it again: Joy shared is joy doubled.

Hyunjin helped us enjoy common things more: round-robin basketball in the driveway, dashing around in the van (sans flat tires), meals together, after breakfast reading and then turtle feeding, after lunch chess and playing with goyang-i, after dinner Monopoly Deal or even better slap-jack with dad.

In four weeks the boys played more chess, solved more cubes, took more bike rides and we all rolled our eyes at goofy-sounding words and our Korean mispronunciations and laughed more than in the whole year before.

There were more visits with family and friends and more lingering after dinner and, I admit, probably more home-cooked dishes than the other 11 months of the year.

boys playing basketballTo be sure, there was also more junk food in the bedrooms, more Dude Perfect flips, more multi-player video Brawl Stars and more goofy talk.

(Hyun-Jin, you know what we call that in America? Gabe would ask Hyunjin. Gooch. To mix it up, sometimes he’d say, equally ad nauseam by week three, Saucy.)

Go ahead, roll your eyes. Sometimes good friends do.

True Friendship

Hyunjin, like Kibum, brought out our best and smoothed out our worst. I like to think we grew a little more gentle and courteous last month too. Maybe we became a slightly less American and a slightly more Korean?

boys and cat in basketWe do miss Hyunjin. But there’s one more thing I miss: I miss what we were when he was with us. Hyunjin brought out something in each of us that wasn’t expressed fully without him.

C.S. Lewis writes about that in The Four Loves. He describes the way he missed his friend Charles Williams, and how that one friend changed the “dynamics” of the group of friends called the “Inklings.

In each of my friends there is something that only some other friend can fully bring out. By myself I am not large enough to call the whole man into activity; I want other lights than my own to show all his facets. Now that Charles is dead, I shall never again see Ronald’s reaction to a specifically Caroline joke. Far from having more of Ronald, having him “to myself” now that Charles is away, I have less of Ronald. Hence true Friendship is the least jealous of loves. Two friends delight to be joined by a third, and three by a fourth…They can then say, as the blessed souls say in Dante, “Here comes one who will augment our loves.” For in this love “to divide is not to take away.”

Adding One Multiplies

Adding Hyunjin to our family didn’t divide our love. His presence multiplied it. 

Boys playing chessHyunjin brought out sides of Sam and Gabe that only a middle brother like Hyunjin could bring out.

Gabe cracked more and sometimes funny “Gucci-gooch” jokes and Sam played hard for chess Grandmaster. Hyunjin won the last game they played, for a 7-6 series lead. Sam says, “He’s lucky.” Gabe says, “gooch.”

Hyunjin also brought out fun sides of Jim I don’t get to see so much and, I suppose, more gentle, domestic sides of me.

His fresh kind eyes brought out our best and reminded us of the gift of each day.

Nothing Ventured, Nothing Gained

Nothing ventured, nothing gained, we say. We ventured, we gained. We opened our hearts and home, and- you’ve loved- you know what comes.

C.S. Lewis again, from The Four Loves, 

There is no safe investment. To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket—safe, dark, motionless, airless—it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. The alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation. The only place outside Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is Hell.

Kamsahamnida, 현진. (Thank you, Hyunjin.)

So fast. Our days together went slow but the month went by fast.

Not too fast though. God’s timing is perfect and our times are in His hands. It’s like that Hangul printed artwork you made for us, and explained when I asked you what it said that it’s kind of hard to translate, but what it means is, Today also is a gift. mom and two sons with Bucky Badger

So kamsahamnida, Hyunjin. Thank you. Thank you for bringing out our best and doubling our joy as a son and brother and friend. Thank you for opening your courteous, gentle, Korean heart to us oft-times wild and willful Wallaces. Thank you for being so kind that your absence left a hole in our hearts. You humbled us in the best of ways.

And I’m really glad we read that book together, about crystals and stars and Virgil and Valencia and the pem. But the universe deserves no thanks for bringing us together.

The Master of the Universe and Giver of all good gifts absolutely does. Because he brought you to us last month. So kamsahamnida, Lord, for Hyunjin.

And thank you,현진, for reminding us Over and over that Today also is a gift.

today also is a gift Korean art
“Today Also is a Gift”  Hangul art from Hyunjin.