After the kids were tucked in, my husband and I wrapped their gifts, chuckling in hushed tones over their gift-giving gusto for us this year.
“They wrapped half their bedrooms and put it under the tree,” I said, exaggerating slightly.
“I think they used up two new rolls of scotch tape just today,” my husband observed.
“They’ve pointed out several times we’re the ones getting the most presents this year. I think what they’re really saying is: ‘Where are my presents?’”
“That’s exactly what they’re saying.” My husband shot me a knowing smile.
We had a good laugh come Christmas.
We unwrapped quite a collection of random plastic pieces, unwanted books, assorted broken pencils, scrap paper, and three pairs of gently used – but clean – Disney princess underwear. But hey, at six- and seven-years-old, the kids were learning to give.
We discarded all but three items. (And no, they weren’t the princess underwear.)
One keeper was a package of post-its I’d bought myself and handed to my son in the midst of one of his wrapping sprees. He had happily run for yet another roll of tape.
The other two gifts were picked out with their father’s approval and paid for with their father’s money.
My kids were my gentle wake-up call.
How often do I strive to impress God with my gift-giving gusto?
God, look! Another present for You under the tree! I prayed for a half hour, signed up for a Bible study, “loved” that person, spent more than I could afford to help someone, and gave up my whole day for this ________! You could fill in the blank with any number of good activities.
Of course, I’m supposed to obey God and love others. But it becomes needless striving when I’m anxious for God to reciprocate, like asking Him, “Where are my presents?” Ironically, I get so wrapped up in what I’m doing that I forget what He’s already done: secured an infinitely loving relationship with Him.
I don’t work to make God love me; I work to understand the love God already has for me. I’m not working to earn the gift; I’m working to unwrap it.
When I’m especially forgetful of this truth, possibly due to impatience or doubt that He’ll come through, sometimes I even do stuff He doesn’t ask me to do, putting time and energy on credit cards and neglecting the people and work right in front of me.
I take comfort that I’m always God’s child, not God’s grown-up. Hopefully, He gets a good laugh and feels as tender toward me as I do toward my own kids in their stage of development.
I appreciated how easily my son accepted the post-its I’d purchased. He didn’t argue, “But I didn’t earn the money, so they can’t be from me.” He wasn’t worried about getting credit. He was content giving me something I wanted.
Am I content to give God what He wants even when it feels too easy?
An activity is not pleasing to God because it is hard or costs me so much. An activity pleases God if it is His idea, done His way, in His timing. God gets the glory and I get the joy when I participate willingly this way.
So, who is really receiving the gift?
So you see, our love for him comes as a result of his loving us first.
1 John 4:19 (TLB)
Giving back to God always starts with receiving what He gives us first. Unlike the broken pencils and princess underwear we tossed, it was the parent-approved gifts paid for with the father’s hard-earned money that we kept. And it’s the heavenly-Father-approved deeds accomplished and paid for by Jesus that meet God’s pleasure and withstand His expectations.
For God took the sinless Christ and poured into him our sins.
Then, in exchange, he poured God’s goodness into us!
2 Corinthians 5:21 (TLB)
Not only do I enter a relationship with God through grace, but I operate daily on it. As I grow in my ability to daily receive the grace God chooses to give me, I grow in my ability to give back to God in a way that pleases Him.
I get it, and I don’t; I’ll be learning this the rest of my life.
What I’m understanding these days is this: sometimes it is far easier to obey God than I make it. An act of kindness does not have to cost me a lot in order to bless a lot. The blessing received is not in proportion to how much effort, time, money, or anything else I expend.
Our children might have worried or waited impatiently for gifts they wondered if they’d receive, but they had no cause for concern. The gifts they received in due time, not conditional on any gifts they gave, were worth exceedingly more than broken trinkets. Their gift-giving gusto was amusing but not required.
Dear God, thank You that in Christ acceptance, love, and perfection are already mine. Please help me better receive Your daily grace so I can enjoy bringing You glory in the ways You determine.
I don’t work to make God love me; I work to understand the love God already has for me. - @PearlNAllard: Click To Tweet