Sometimes we receive gifts that we don’t really want. Like the time my husband crossed paths on campus with the Chinese director of the English Department and was a little too enthusiastic as he marveled over the beauty of his newly purchased porcelain horses. When he realized his mistake and tried his best to back pedal on the praise, it was too late. His protests were no match against Liang Laoshi’s insistence that he bring them home as a gift. Unfortunately, because we really didn’t want them and had no place for them in our tiny apartment, those horses have collected dust–never leaving their box–these past 20 years.
What have you done with the unwanted gifts you’ve received?
As we exchange gifts this Christmas season, we pause to reflect on the greatest gift ever given: Our complete acceptance as sons and daughters by our heavenly Father. A once broken-by-sin relationship restored for eternity by the gift of God’s perfect Son. And we humbly receive His freely-given, grace-filled Sacrifice with empty hands and needy hearts.
Through God’s deeper-than-we-can-imagine love, enshrouded in mystery, He offers us other gifts as well. Some of those gifts are answers to our prayers and just exactly what we wanted (the gift of a spouse, a friend, a child…) Other gifts come in packages that we feel much more resistant to unwrap (a broken marriage, betrayal by a friend, infertility…)
One of the gifts God has lovingly chosen for me is the Gift of Pain through migraines. And when I said, “No, thank you. I’ll take the pain-free life instead,” He didn’t give me the trade-in I wanted. So in my resentment of the pain that felt like a prison, I told God, “If this is a test, I’ve failed it. And I don’t want to keep living this kind of life.” He patiently listened to all of my complaints against Him and offered me the Gift of His Presence in the Pain. And after a long time of resisting the gift that I despised, I finally learned how to open this present called pain. And found that there actually is blessing inside. A deeper trust and dependence. A newfound strength in the ongoing battle of weakness and brokenness.
God also gave me the Gift of Adoption, which included long years of waiting and struggling with doubts about His sovereign plan. And when our miracle boys finally did arrive, I was deep in a hole of burnout from living overseas, so I questioned my capacity as well as His goodness. Will this gift of two new children always feel more like a burden than a blessing? Through my pain of being rejected as an adoptive mother, I now have a glimpse of what rejection might have felt like for Jesus.
Though the beauty can be difficult to see, the Gift of Rejection is actually enabling me to grow me more into His likeness. Ultimately, this gift of adoption, opened with reluctance, has been redemptive. I’ve realized that there are untouched places buried in my heart that need healing, and God is using the challenges of our adoption journey to lovingly uncover them and do a deeper work that only He can do. It has been a slow, humbling process where I have often felt stuck, but He is helping me to open a Gift Called Surrender.
And finally, God has given me a gift called I am Not the Savior. As much as I want to see transformation both in my own life and in the lives of my loved ones, I am not the one who transforms. I can pray, I can try to discern and do “my part” as best I can, and I can entrust my ministry efforts to the true Savior. But there are times when the results are not encouraging.
About 10 years ago, my Bible Study leader in college turned away from God. A dear friend in China is not walking closely with Him now. My heart feels heavy with what feels like betrayal and How can this be? But I can choose to believe that God is not finished, and that the story He is writing through their lives is not over yet. By opening and embracing this gift, I put my faith anew in the One who knows and loves them completely and who acts in ways that are much higher than my ways. Along with the unsettling gift of seeing friends walk away, He offers the Gift of Waiting in Hope.
What unwanted gifts has God given you?
What did you experience after you opened them? Or do you still need to open them?