‘Your mother can’t pass along what she doesn’t have’ the cancer geneticist told me as she went over my test results last week. My doctor had flagged me as ‘High risk’ due to a significant level of cancer in my family history, recommending that I get the test done for the BRCA gene responsible for ovarian and breast cancer. After waiting weeks to get the results, it was a relief to hear those words, not only for my sake but to know I can’t pass on this particular cancer gene to my children.
And yet, as my mind expands the meaning, I wonder – what has been passed to me? What have I passed on? In my youth I looked to hear ‘I love you’ verbally from my parents. If I solely focused on that expression, it left only disappointment, but when my eyes and ears were opened, I saw them live out love in action and ‘heard’ it in a thousand non-verbal messages. Mom and Dad demonstrated it with their lives daily toward us, toward others. Possibly due to her personality/love language (which is sacrificial acts of service and giving), Mom did not speak it out loud then (but at age 86, she does verbally ‘pass it on’ to me today, and has for years). Or maybe it was due to her generation that wasn’t as expressive verbally or her cultural background; in any case, the verbal expression was not passed to her, and therefore not to me. For me, it feels vital that I pass it on multiple times a day. (Maybe too much for my kids!) Yet a wonderful legacy has been passed to me, one I am proud to pass along. A legacy of faith, gracious living out love, wisdom, of quiet service toward all. I pray I have passed these ‘genes’ to my children.
I know this is not true for many. I have spoken with many who have been bound by past disappointments, by parents or others, who did not pass along ‘good’ genes of kindness and love. The void haunts them 50 years later. So what has been packed in your life bag? No one escapes negative experiences and filters to overcome, but hopefully they are mixed in with sweet moments of success and joy to be remembered. Examining the bag in my life has brought some understanding that each of us has something to offer, and each of us needs something to receive. We are interdependent and need to seek to draw forth what others have to offer, but always remembering that they cannot pass along what they have not received. I believe this is by design, so that we continually look to Jesus to fill our bag of longings – and also so that we can pass along what we have received. How freeing it is to know that though He often reveals Himself in the lives of others, if their life bags don’t contain what we long for, we can confidently go to the Source and receive all we need from Him.
There have been times I have sought for something that others did not have the capacity to give me, whether time, friendship, encouragement or whatever. Instead of sitting in disappointment I remind myself that they cannot give what they do not have; therefore I can turn it around and have compassion for them, realizing I might be the one to give them what is needed in their bag. A word of courage, a whisper of hope, and hand to serve, a shoulder to offer. An opening for their bag to receive something new. A pathway for them to reach in and find something special to pass along to someone else.
It’s also daunting to think what negative things I could pass on without even realizing it, like a contagious disease. Like a cancer gene. A thoughtless word here, a not searching-and-seeing-and-valuing what another can offer. When I am only thinking about what I have to offer, or seeking only whatever I feel my lack is, I miss the beauty of what another might have, hidden beneath the surface, like a gem yet to be discovered and revealed. Sometimes another is not even aware of what they have and it is a powerfully joyful privilege to show them the value of what they have in their bag. It is such an honor to see another through Christ’s eyes and realize the power of passing on fresh seeds of life that could bear fruit in another’s life. And who knows how many lives can benefit?
Whether we receive what we’d like to from others or not, Jesus promised that He packed all we need in our bags. We have been given everything we need for life and godliness – freely, generously, purely. And because it is not a ‘thing’ wrapped in gift wrap, but the actual living Being of Christ, there are no limitations to what can pass through us. Freely we have received, freely we can give what has been given to us. Or should I say Who has been given to us.
Lord, make me ever mindful of all You have passed to me and the opportunities to share You with others!