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 Leave a Comment
Michele Morin says
Pearl, this is a point of theology and Christian living that the church is so confused about–desperation for workers drives leaders to portray (and to envision!) a needy God who just won’t make it if someone doesn’t take on the role of nursery coordinator. I love that I don’t have to be “God’s grown-up,” and in the midst of a challenging season for recruitment in my own world right now, you have given me a good dose of God’s-got-this thinking as a rebuke to any lesser view.
Pearl Allard says
Michele, I appreciate your thoughts. I’ve witnessed that too, and the effects are disturbing. Whether God has a Gideon-type success in store for you or He’s leading into new territory or He has something completely different in store, I pray He encourages your heart in your challenging season and whispers grace upon grace so you can keep resting even as you work. Wishing you a joy-filled Christmas!
Beth Williams says
Great theology here. This reminds me of a song “What Can I Give Him?” What can I give Him, poor as I am? If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb; If I were a wise man, I would do my part; Yet what can I give Him? Give Him my heart. There isn’t anything I could give God more than He’s already given me. All God really asks of us is to give Him our hearts fully inclined to Him. Then go out & obey. He doesn’t need or want our striving or gift giving gusto. He wants child-like faith. Thankful I don’t have to do or be something for God to love me. He loves me unconditionally & I work to understand that.
Blessings 🙂 Have a Merry Christmas & a super blessed new year!!
Roberta Sarver says
Pearl, You are right! I like the thought of being God’s child, not His grown-up. My spiritual mentor back in my younger days was an 80-something-year-old woman who used to say, “I’m just in God’s kindergarten.” And she had been serving the Lord for decades! That was overwhelming to me then, when I compared myself and my lack of knowledge and experience, but you have brought it into context nicely. Thanks!
Pearl Allard says
Roberta, I so love the thought of being in God’s kindergarten! What a beautiful way of thinking about it. So grateful God allows us to be works in progress as we learn to receive His grace. May you be given a joy-filled Christmas!
Pearl Allard says
Beth, yes and amen! I’ll raise my teacup to that! Thank you for your presence here and may you be given a joy-filled Christmas!
Emily Conrad says
You’ve drawn such a beautiful and good point out of your kids’ gift-giving! We can never out-give our Father, and everything we do give Him comes from Him in the first place. How He lavishes us with good and perfect gifts!
Pearl Allard says
Emily, I’m so glad you and I are kids together in God’s economy! You are such an encouragement to me. And yes and yes! Raising my teacup to our generous Heavenly Father and thanking Him for the gift of you, too.
Kathy Golladay says
Thank you Pearl, for sharing with us the gift that God has given you. I rest in Christ’s finished work. What a blessing to be reminded that I am His child and He tenderly loves me. Praise God that we give only what He first gave us. Truly Christ’s yoke is easy and His burden is light!
Pearl Allard says
Kathy, thank you for your encouragement! And I’m so grateful with you that our Heavenly Father is not a “harsh taskmaster”! May He fill your heart with overflowing hope and love as you continue pouring into women in BSF and sharing what God has given you. You are such a blessing to me! Happy New Year!
Thank you for the reminder, Pearl, that we can only give God what we receive from Him. Around this time of the year, I often think of what I can give to Jesus and Iike your children, I’ve fallen into gift-giving gusto of my own making. But I’m learning to receive with a thankful heart — to fully unwrap this amazing gift God has given me in Jesus.
Pearl Allard says
Hulda, I’m right there with you. I write the things I need to hear! I’m so grateful we don’t have to explore God’s goodness alone – that He wove our paths together and blessed me with your presence, encouragement, insight, and friendship. May He fill your heart to overflowing with hope and love in this coming new year sweet sister.