Have you ever received a crummy gift?
A dozen years ago my brother showed up with presents for my children. Everything went well until he gave the last gift to 3-year-old Anna, who took one look at the skinny stuffed monkey with its long, gruesome, Velcroed arms and ran screaming out of the room.
I know exactly how she felt. A few years ago I was given a gift I thought was just as crummy. It was the gift of a crisis. If ever I wanted to run screaming to my room, it was then.
At the time, it didn’t feel like a gift; it felt like a cosmic joke, like God had His boot on the back of my neck trying to get me to cry “uncle.” Gifts, the kind I normally like, are fun, thoughtful, and show the giver is intimately familiar with my Amazon wish list. Gifts don’t hurt; they show the giver’s love, but this one hurt like a red-hot fire.
What to do with a gift like this? The obvious temptation is to regift it. Pass that baby along to some other unsuspecting person. Or maybe return it to the giver, claiming it isn’t the right size or that we are violently allergic to wool.
Giving gifts back to the Almighty, though, isn’t like returning something to Target. The only thing you can do (believe me I know) is to sit with it while it does its work.
How, you ask, can something as crummy as a major life crisis possibly be considered a gift? It’s hard to articulate unless you’ve been there.
For one, you find out who your true friends are. Better yet are those who willingly come alongside you during your crisis, having never seen you outside of your ugly, miserable, teary state and who, despite your mess, choose not to bail.
When given the gift of a crisis, the Bible comes alive in a way you’ve never dreamed of. The Psalms become far more than King David singing lullabies to sheep. They become your life bread, and you highlight your Bible into a rainbow. You read the 136th chapter with its 26 references to God’s steadfast love and are unhinged. Where before you read condemnation, now all you see is love and tender mercies and a Father’s heart for you. You stay up reading the Johns and Jude where it repeatedly refers to His beloved and then, in a shattering bolt of insight, recall that your very name means just that, beloved. You follow the counselor’s orders, which seem silly enough, and ask God what He thinks of you, and within the hour quite by “accident” you stumble upon a book titled, God Thinks You Are Wonderful.
I could write seven more columns about the gifts my crisis gave me. The gifts He gave me … in all the hardest ways imaginable. It’s taken a long time to say this honestly, but I’m finally to a point where I am thankful for this “gift.” It was no mistake, no thoughtless cruelty, no arbitrary suffering dropped on my doorstep to crush me, but exactly what I needed to bring me where I needed to be: To see Him.
Excruciating as it has been, I wouldn’t regift that if I could.
And I hope that, if you find the gift of a crisis under your tree this year, you won’t either.