Imagine a role-playing game with two decks of cards to start. From one deck you draw your superpower; from the second, the intent of the interactions you will enact. Off to the side are two other decks which we will get to later, after the game gets moving.
This is a painfully simplified RPG. There are no wizards, no mythological creatures, and no tournaments to decide the future of your monarchy. In fact, it’s rather like real life. Lest we apologize for being so ordinary, keep in mind, we’re here to form missionaries. We’re aiming to make your ordinary life more meaningful – not to create a fantasy escape.
Start by taking that first card. You find one of two choices: GIVING or RECEIVING. All of the cards in this deck are either one or the other. Write this down; this is your superpower. The card you did not draw will be designated as your weakness. (If you really want to make it an RPG experience, roll dice to get a power level for each, with the highest values being the most intense).
Where would you fall out, if this wasn’t a role play, or if role playing games just aren't your thing? Which comes most naturally to you, giving or receiving?
Hold on to your answer; it’s important. First, though, let us examine these elements a bit more closely.
“Giving” is a familiar concept.
-Gifts are a sign of celebration, encouragement or consolation
-Rewards are given for achievement or hard work
-“Sharing” is a form of giving we learn to do when our first inclination might be to keep something for ourselves
Some people give readily and easily. We can quickly begin naming such people:
-Dedicated parents, teachers, coaches, mentors
-Almost anyone in the service professions
-The “popular” ones at school
There are numerous reasons a person might be oriented toward giving. Personality type is probably the most obvious, but anyone can find themselves giving in situations past their normal comfort zones. People respond to the needs around them, recognizing the greater good in giving rather than passing the opportunity (or the crisis) to someone else. Some people simply give because nobody else does. Some give because it feels good; others, because it feels right.
People who rarely or reluctantly give tend to be much more guarded, skeptical or calculating. This generally boils down to three main reasons:
-Protection from abuse, rejection, hurt or misunderstanding (= fear)
-Genuinely not knowing how or what to give (= lack of skill or resource)
-Deliberately withholding themselves for revenge or hostility (= aggression)
The concept of giving is fairly well developed and easy to recognize. To wit: who has not heard numerous times the maxim: “It is better to give than to receive”?
Which brings us, then, to the alternate concept: receiving.
“Receiving” gets a bad rap, by comparison. Think of the concepts we might readily associate with receiving:
-Getting a gift
-Taking ownership of something
-Accepting a payment
-Accepting a delivery
-Accepting a reward
-Pulling in (as in receiving a signal)
-Catching the ball, being passed a puck, or attempting to return a serve in sports
Each of these bears a connotation of taking, which itself implies a loss or giving up by someone else for our benefit. We are conditioned to think of “giving” as selfless and “receiving” as selfish.
Back to our game. What if you drew “receiving” as your superpower? Is that even possible? What would that imply for you, and to your fellow RPG players?
Besides sports players, who are the skilled receivers in our lives?
(Anyone else having a hard time?)
We admit, we have deliberately overlooked some of the other meanings of “receive.” Perhaps it is time to include those. How about having a look in Sacred Scripture? In addition to several citations meaning the connotations above, we find several other uses of this word receive, such as:
“Receive the law of [the Almighty], and lay up his words in your heart.” (Job 22:22)
“Listen to counsel and receive instruction, that you may eventually become wise.” (Proverbs 19:20)
Connection; Communion with God through One Another
Moses, to God: “If I find favor with you, O Lord, do come along in our company. This is indeed a stiff-necked people; yet pardon our wickedness and sins, and receive us as your own.” (Exodus 34:9)
Of God: “As an eagle incites its nestlings forth by hovering over its brood, so He spread His wings to receive them and bore them up on his pinions.” (Deuteronomy 32:11)
“With contrite heart and humble spirit, let us be received” (Daniel 3:39)
“Whoever receives you receives Me, and whoever receives Me receives the One who sent Me.” (Matthew 10:40)
“Whoever receives one child such as this, in My name, receives Me.” (Matthew 18:5)
“The crowds, meanwhile, learned of this and followed Him. He received them and spoke with them about the kingdom of God, and healed those who needed to be cured.” (Luke 9:11)
Clearly, there is a distinction between the material sense of receive, meaning “get,” and the interpersonal connotation, which implies connection, interaction, welcoming and generosity. But - if we may - let us also note how the material sense of receive appears in Sacred Scripture:
“Moved with pity, Jesus touched their eyes. Immediately, they received their sight and followed Him.” (Matthew 20:34)
“Whatever you ask for in prayer, with faith, you will receive.” (Matthew 21:22)
“And when He had said this, He breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.’” (John 20:22)
Each of these instances depicts people getting things, yes. However, none of them imply loss or giving up, and none have to be earned or taken. Rather, each example is of something made freely available by God because He loves us, and for no other reason.
God, it seems, is constantly poised and ready to give. He only requires that we desire what he offers: that we receive.
In fact, as we consider all of this, receiving appears to be quite the stealth superpower, whether or not it’s the card we drew at the beginning. The intent of our action, that second deck, is going to determine whether or not our receiving is material or interpersonal.
So now, we come back to your initial answer, to yourself, as to which you would be ordinarily. Are you a skilled giver, or a skilled receiver? Is your weakness an avoidance of giving, or an avoidance of receiving? Please do not allow these ponderings to worry you. Each one of us is gaited differently. One person’s superpower is another person’s weakness, and vice versa, but each one of us has a place in the plan for this world. You may not have found yours yet, but that only means it’s still out there.
Please also note the very peculiar fact that this first deck tells you your superpower, but that superpower reveals your weakness. As we progress through the game, we will discover something remarkable: Because your weakness is the inverse of the superpower, it contains the very essence of the superpower in reverse… and so, defeating your weakness will be accomplished by applying that superpower in reverse.
Not following? Not buying it? No worries. We will continue this next week. Trust that it will all make sense. For now, let it puzzle you, as only the best games do.
PRAY: Heavenly Father of All Goodness, help us give ourselves freely to You in love… and help us receive your grace, enlightenment and healing in all of our needs.
CONTEMPLATE: Consider the Scripture verses noted this week, and settle on the one which appeals to you the most. Ponder what it is that draws you to that verse.
RELATE: Be aware this week of your interactions, noticing the many ways you give, and the many ways you receive. This will set the stage for next week’s Missionary Thought.
May the power of Divine Love shine in and through my weakness, so that He might be glorified in and through me, and that in my weakness, His power may reach perfection. Through Christ Our Lord, AMEN.
Fr. Mark P. Nolette - Spiritual Director for the Mission of Saint Thorlak