Monday, December 23, 2013

What Can I Offer?

I'm sitting in my living room, thinking about the upcoming Christmas holiday. I was off work today, which was rare and very appreciated, after working the entire Black Friday weekend. I don't often get a chance to get on here and write as often as I would like, even though there have been many things to write about. But tonight it seemed appropriate to go ahead and take the time to share what's been on my heart these days.

Throughout this restoration journey (going on two years in February!), I have been given many gifts. And it wasn't just at the start of the process either-it has continued. And maybe because my eyes are opened finally, I can see gifts that I wouldn't have seen when I was living in darkness. But something tells me there is more to it than that.
You see, we talk a lot about gifts at Christmas time. Usually we try to skirt around the issue, or demand to anyone listening that we know that Christmas isn't really about the gifts. We try to teach our children that it is better to give than receive, or better still, that it's all about Jesus.

There is nothing wrong with this teaching. It is something I advocate and something I want to be sure my children understand as they grow. But sometimes we get so focused on avoiding the topic of gift-giving at Christmas that we miss the point. I wrote about this briefly in my last post, but it keeps coming to the surface as Christmas gets closer.

Because I think it really is about the gifts.

Hear me out.

Obviously it's about the birth of Christ, the ultimate gift we were given by God. And that by far is the most amazing gift.

But to illustrate what I am saying, let me share this.

I love giving my children gifts. I have always loved to give gifts to others. It brings me great joy to find that perfect gift. The one thing that I know will make someone's day, month, or year. If left alone, I'd spend all kinds of money we don't even have to accomplish this. Fortunately, Kris is very even-headed when it comes to money, so he reins me in when he needs to. Perhaps because of the immense joy I get in seeing the kids' delighted faces, Christmas is my favorite time of year. The joy on the faces of my children, that I know I had a hand in...nothing beats that. Here's the thing: I know my kids and I am really good a picking out gifts for them. I have their best interest at heart, and bringing joy to their hearts fills me as well.

And as I have been thinking about this, I have realized something.

God is like this.

When we look at God as a father, and when I looked at the awesome opportunities I have had these last two years, I can't help but believe that God loves to give his children gifts. Think about it. Throughout your life, have you ever received something you wanted? I'm not just speaking of spiritual things either. What about a bonus or a raise at work? Or the means to purchase that latest gadget you've had your eye on? Or in my case, opportunities to go to concerts and events? And what about non-tangible things? Unexpected friendships or a song playing at just the right time? Sometimes I think we take these things for granted. I know that I certainly did.

But I can look back over these last couple of years and see that God has had a hand in many gifts. Not just gifts that were good for me whether I wanted them or not - though there certainly have been those. But I'm talking about things that I have always wanted to do, or things that will stick with me for the rest of my life.

Meeting Switchfoot.

Going to concerts of men who have changed my life forever: Brandon Heath, Josh Wilson, Chris August.

A new job.

A restored friendship, that makes no earthly sense.

A deep connection with an old friend that I now understand will last for the remainder of my life, when friends (female especially) are very difficult for me.

A wonderful church home with loving and sincere people that I will never forget, even as our paths inevitably change as years go by.

There are just so many gifts I have been given. And it makes me smile to imagine that the God who loves me so much that he took my sin and offered me grace and forgiveness when I deserved it the least but needed it the most watches me receive these gifts with child-like excitement and joy on my face. He watches me and he smiles. He knows that he has chosen the perfect gift for me in those moments. He knows me inside and out, and he knows what I like. He knows what will put a smile on my face. He knows what will fill my heart with joy. And it delights him. Just as I am thrilled as I watch my children open their gifts, I truly believe that I understand just a little bit of how God feels when he gives us these earthly gifts. I cannot even begin to imagine what kind of joy we will experience in heaven, as we receive that gift of life for all eternity. And the ultimate joy that God will feel as he gathers all of his children home. I just think that is a really awesome picture.

And that leaves me longing to give something back. What gift can I possibly give to God that would be sufficient? What do I have to offer? What do I have to give?

Well, in the words of Casting Crowns, contrary to some common teachings in Christianity, I do have something that I can give. And after all, it's all He ever wanted.

My heart.

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