Have you ever received a gift you didn’t want? An ugly Christmas sweater? Chia pet? Another toaster (to add to your growing collection)? Broken down car?
Unexpected. Unwanted. Not on your wish list!
Sometimes it’s gift wrap that throws us off.
Consider the Bible purchased at a second-hand store. The buyer got quite a surprise when they opened it. From the inscription inside, it was originally intended as graduation gift for someone’s granddaughter. Unwanted, the girl never cracked it open. If she had, she would have found an envelope tucked inside, containing cash for a new car. (OUCH!)
Our family received a “gift” this year. Unexpected. Ultimately, unwanted. Wrapped in stunning paper, topped with an intricate bow, we opened it with great expectation. When we did, we found ourselves so confused that we had to double-check the tag to make sure our name was on it.
The unexpected gift God plopped down in our lap would take us away from family and dear friends, away from a home we loved and remove us from a community unlike any other I’ve ever experienced. Exchanging big skies and mountains for lots and lots and lots of trees and a big city, a move from the Northwest to the Southeast was not something we requested. But like that girl who received the Bible for graduation, we realize we have a choice – to open the book and flip through the pages and uncover the hidden gifts, or ungratefully shove it into a drawer until we find an appropriate time to unload it.
Over the years, I’ve come to know this about our heavenly Father and gifts: his gifts are not only good, but extravagant expressions of his love for us. Not only that, but he knows what you need before you know to ask.
Consider the gift God sent to Bethlehem 2,000 years ago. A baby born to a poor family was not what Jewish leaders expected for their Messiah. Thirty years passed, and they grew so irritated with this gift – Jesus – that they found a way (so they thought) to get rid of him. And they crucified him. An extravagant gift from heaven, nailed to a tree. Refusing to unpack the gift, they missed out on grace revealed, hope and forgiveness of sin.
I still don’t know why this cross-country “gift” appeared in my life at this moment. But because I know God is involved, he has something good, I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be, and he wants to show me something new about himself, myself and our relationship.
Sometimes, that’s all we need to know.
Father, life is filled with unexpected gifts. Life may feel out of control but you can redeem anything for your perfect purpose and plan. You have us exactly where we need to be. Help us, today, in whatever situation we face and don’t understand, to trust you on this one. Because when we trust that you can use anything for good, we find hope. Amen.
Ironing it Out:
I asked the question last week on my Facebook page, but I’ll ask it here, again. What is the worst present you ever received? Or, did you ever get a gift you didn’t want but ended up loving?
Now, think about your present life circumstances. Sometimes, it’s hard to get past a situation and see the gift on the other side. What are you having trouble seeing as a “gift?” How could God possibly use it for good? How might (or is) God reveal himself to you through it?
A little over 10 years ago, I was physically attacked while on a business trip. At the time, I was also 8 weeks pregnant with our first child. It was frightening. I suffered from post-traumatic stress for quite some time afterward. And while I would never consider what happened to me as a “gift,” what happened in the hours that followed certainly was. As I sat in the ER waiting for the doctor, God led me to this verse: Psalm 27:1-3. The gift was a promise that God will never leave me. He fights for me – even in my darkest hours. He is my hope. My enemies will fall because he loves me.
I still don’t understand why it was allowed to happen, but I’m thankful for the gift I received on the other side.
Do you have a story you can share and encourage someone today? Whether it’s here or somewhere else, I hope you will.