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Gifts and Love

I always get nervous when I watch people receive gifts. Is that weird? Whether the gift is from me or from someone else, watching the recipient receive the gift makes me nervous. My stomach gets all knotted as I wonder if they’re going to like the gift or if they’ll have to pretend. And everyone knows when someone fakes enthusiasm. I always watch their face to see if they smile with just their lips (faking it) or if they smile with their whole face–eyes lighting up, wrinkles forming, apples of cheek raising (real enthusiasm). You don’t believe there’s a difference? Try it. Smile with your lips and then smile like the best thing ever just happened to you. There’s a huge difference in the facial expression. And congrats, now “opening gifts” will send you into a nervous panic too. 

I prefer to give gifts anonymously or drop them off so I don’t have to watch the person receive it. I sincerely want them to enjoy the gift, but I don’t want to make myself nervously watch their expression as they open it. This may have something to do with the fact that I rarely give material gifts. I only like to give gifts if they’re meaningful, and unless the person has been asking for a specific book or something, I end up writing a letter. Giving a gift for the sake of giving a gift seems like a waste of money to me. So if I don’t have anything in particular to say and you haven’t mentioned anything specific you want, don’t expect a gift from me 🙂

We (okay, maybe it’s just me but I’m pretending you feel this too 🙂 ) always want to know if the gift was right. Is the shirt the right size? Was the perfume the scent you wanted? Is the dress the right style? Do you like this author? You haven’t seen this movie already, have you? Did someone else already get you the same thing? My theory is that’s why gift cards are so popular. They’re so generic. How can you possibly go wrong? There’s little to no room for error if you stick with a gift card. It’s safe. It’s convenient for the giver and recipient. It’s boring. The best gifts are extravagant: the ones that have a lot of thought put into them (like a letter perhaps 😉 ). Not necessarily the most expensive (I’d even say it’s very rarely the most expensive) gifts, but the most thoughtful ones…the ones that took some time to come up with and find.

Giving an extravagant gift does 2 things:

1) It makes the recipient incredibly valuable. The gift you give shows what you think of the recipient. The more you value the recipient, the more time/effort you put into the gift. And after putting all that thought/time into the gift, you’re bound to hope desperately that the recipient likes it. The recipient’s response is hugely important to the giver.

2) It makes the giver incredibly vulnerable. You’re going big or going home. You’re laying it all out there. 

Think about a proposal. If a guy makes an effort to think of a creative way to propose and then takes the time and money to set everything up, talk to her dad, buy a ring, and get the plan in motion, he’s desperately hoping for a good response from the woman he loves. Imagine if he jumped through all those hoops, gets down on one knee, holds out a ring, pops the question and is answered with an apathetic “Cool, thanks. Yes.” Would he be jumping for joy that she said the word “yes” or wilting in disappointment at her lack of enthusiasm (the appropriate response to his lavish gift)? I’m guessing the latter, at least inwardly.

Whether we realize it or not, we often give gifts hoping for a response that matches our level of giving. If we give a gift card, we rarely expect a large amount of enthusiasm, but at least a grateful “thank you.” If we give a long-awaited present, we expect all the stored enthusiasm to overflow. I don’t think this expectation is based so much on a selfish need to be thanked (although, that’s always a possibility), but on that nagging thought: was the gift right? We want it to measure up to their standards and expectations. And I believe that’s just a hint of a universal underlying desire:

We want to measure up to people’s standards and expectations. 

Am I good enough? 

Am I attractive enough?

Am I strong enough?

Am I smart enough?

Am I valuable enough?

Am I enough?

And I think a little phrase can be tacked onto the end of each of those questions: 

..to be loved?

I’m afraid to be vulnerable. I’m afraid that if you knew everything about me, there’s no way you’d like me, much less love me. If you knew all my quirks, all my weaknesses, all the stuff that makes me who I am, you wouldn’t want me. And I don’t think I’m alone on this one. I’ve talked to enough people to know I’m not alone. We’re all a little guarded. We all have a mask to put on. We all know how to fake a smile and say “I’m fine, how are you?” We’re all actors and actresses. Because there’s this hidden fear that revealing too much of ourselves will destroy our chances of being accepted and loved. 

Which is why this next statement is so amazing:

The One who knows me the best loves me the most.

“O LORD, you have searched me and known me! 
You know when I sit down and when I rise up; 
   you discern my thoughts from afar. 
You search out my path and my lying down 
   and are acquainted with all my ways. 
Even before a word is on my tongue, 
   behold, O LORD, you know it altogether. 
You hem me in, behind and before, 
   and lay your hand upon me. 
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; 
   it is high; I cannot attain it. 

My frame was not hidden from you, 
when I was being made in secret, 
   intricately woven in the depths of the earth. 
Your eyes saw my unformed substance; 
in your book were written, every one of them, 
   the days that were formed for me, 
   when as yet there was none of them.”

~Psalm 139:1-6, 15-16

All the questions listed above and every similar question floating in your mind and mine has an answer:

I am a sinner loved by my Savior.

God proved His love for me at Calvary

“In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that He loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”

~1 John 4:9-10

“The world takes us to a silver screen on which flickering images of passion and romance play, and as we watch, the world says, ‘This is love.’ God takes us to the foot of a tree on which a naked and bloodied man hangs and says, “This is love.‘”

~Joshua Harris 

“The wisdom of God devised a way for the love of God to deliver sinners from the wrath of God while not compromising the righteousness of God.”

~John Piper

My questions suddenly fade in the light of who He is and what He’s done for me. He gave me the gift of never having to wonder if my gift will be good enough for Him…if I will ever be good enough for Him. He loved me enough to give me the joy of loving Him and making much of Him in this world. His extravagant gift came at such a price: the death of Jesus. The fact that the Son of God was sacrificed on my behalf shows that God sees me as valuable. I am saved by grace: beautiful, radical, undeserved grace. Jesus died for me on the cross, not only fully aware of everything bad in me, but willingly paying the punishment for everything bad in me. The only proper response to a gift like that is utter gratitude and eternal worship. I’ve been redeemed to do what I was created to do: worship my God.

Completely vulnerable before Him.

No shame. No false pretenses. No masks. No guards. No hypocrisy. No doubts.

Pure, unadulterated worship.

Sure, if I let down my guard, people may run away. Yeah, I may not be good enough to be loved by some people. 

But that doesn’t matter.

The God of the universe loves me

…and I get to love Him back.

“There is no measuring the value of Jesus. There is no quantifying his worth. So there is no way to calculate the cost of love. There is no way to put the heart in a scale and say, “this much affection for Jesus and no more.” Jesus is inexpressibly wonderful, and Mary is inexpressibly affectionate. They match.”

~John Piper

Lord, may my affection for You match Your worth.

hallelujah

God’s grace in my life today:

I am loved by God not because of who I am or what I’ve done, but because of who He is and what He’s done.

I have the joy of worshiping Him for the rest of my life.

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