I just finished wrapping up some gifts for our grandson’s number changing party. His number is changing from a 2 to a 3. That’s a big deal when you’ve only ever had two numbers before –and only one in reliable memory. I remember one of my kids on his third number changing day singing, “I’m free, I’m free, and then I be four.”
Free-year olds love to open gifts. It’s all about the wrapping paper, so I buy one major toy and a few little things, a few practical things, and wrap them all. When wee ones have wee siblings I wrap up something for the competition too, thus the pink paper. (Why is sharing one of the toughest things for humans to learn?)
Recently I heard someone use the expression, “Those people are seeking the gift and not the Giver. If your faith is solid you don’t need those kind of things.”
They were, of course, speaking of the gifts of the Spirit, especially the dramatic ones like prophecy, healing, miracles and signs and wonders (aka things that make you go ‘huh?’)
I know three-year olds. Will this one seek the gift and not the giver? You betcha. He’s only three. When the pile of gifts from friends and family, which can’t be opened until after the birthday cake ritual, cause him to vibrate in anticipation, who-gave-what will not be the first thing on his mind. When the paper goes flying I expect some of the practical presents will be dropped, perfunctorily, on the floor –socks, jeans, and pyjamas sliding under the coffee table for retrieval by parent later. Anything associated with his obsession with Thomas the train will be proudly displayed and put to immediate use. Daddy will probably have to assemble and explain other gifts –or at the very least spend 20 minutes extricating them from the packaging. He will also lay down the rules for using them safely.
One of the little guy’s gifts this year will be a Lightning McQueen fold-down portable toilet seat small enough to fit into mommy’s bag. Since he announced last week that diapers are just fine with him, and he will not be re-considering his position on the matter until his number changes to twelve, the giver, his Grandma, does not expect effusive thanks for this one. But she knows he can make good use of it someday. She loves him and knows that growing up means learning to deal with his crap. (It’s interesting that in Christian dream interpretation bathroom dreams often symbolize confession, forgiveness and cleansing –an elementary teaching in spiritual growth.)
Some gifts God gives us are fun and some are practical. Some we have dared to ask for and some are surprises. Some gifts are powerful tools we will need in the future to do the tasks he has in mind for us to do. When we open these boxes the response can be, “What do I need with this? Oh dear, if I am going to use it I will need to change the way I do things or even the way I think. It means an increase in the level of responsibility required of me –and I don’t know that I want to put all the effort to work out the kinks. It is easier to say, “No. I don’t need it. Things are working well for me just as they are, thank you very much.”
I was thinking also about how the God the Giver must feel when His gifts are rejected. It gives me great pleasure to look for gifts that suit each child. I do believe that our heavenly Father delights in his children and along with instruction and correction gives them wrapping paper and toy trains. If they ask for a piece of birthday cake will he give them a rock? If they ask for toast will He give them a snake? (It’s true that bad men also offer delightful tasty treats and children need to be able to recognize that and learn to say NO! and run away from the wrong voice.)
Our older grandchildren recognize that gifts come from people who care. They don’t need to be prompted to say thank you. They may share the gift with their friends months later and say, “My Grandma and Grandpa gave me this.” Part of the reason (though certainly not all) is because we have a history of listening to them and trying to understand their personalities and encouraging potential talents. We’ve also learned that some gifts are inappropriate and some more valued the longer the wait for them, so we also withhold in love. The kids have learned, over time, to say thank you on their own.
To seek the gifts and not the Giver is immature but to seek the Giver and reject his gifts is not seeking the Giver. Imagine a young woman accepting a proposal of marriage and then rejecting a carefully chosen, custom-designed engagement ring as being unnecessary because she has faith that the young man will observe his verbal contractual obligation (which may imply she already has doubts about his ability to support a family.) Rejecting the Giver’s gifts is actually rejecting the Giver and replacing Him with a god of our own making — a task master, a disciplinarian, a judge, a distant person who does not enjoy us or derive pleasure from our pleasure – someone who is on a strict budget. How that must grieve him.
That was me for many years. I thought God only taught through tribulation and suffering and that gifts come after the finish line, when the race is done and I am dead. (Silly girl. The gift of healing, for example, is kind of useless in heaven. There are no sick people there.)
I guess I choose to say, “Thank you, Abba. You are good. Your gifts are amazing! And thank you for the potty seat, even if it means that I need to grow up and make changes in my life.”