When I was a very young child, I wanted desperately to give my mother a proper present, but being a child, I was unable to buy or make something of the quality that she deserved.
So I made regular raids into her bedroom, picking up an item that she already owned and loved, and wrapping it for her.
“Here,” I handed her an icon of the virgin Mary that I had pulled off the top of her dresser. “This is for you.”
“How delightful!” each time she accepted the gift as if 1) she didn’t already own it and 2) I hadn’t already given it to her. Some days, I gave her that icon three or four times.
Nothing Acceptable to Give
My own granddaughter, at five, does the same these days, and I regularly receive books, tea cups, and trinkets that I already own. And each time, like my mother before me, I receive them as they are intended: gifts from someone who wants desperately to give something, but has nothing acceptable to give.
So we are with God: He is the ultimate Gift Giver, the creator of everything including us, and there is nothing that we own or are that He hasn’t already supplied us with. Vaguely aware, like five-year-olds, of the disproportionate nature of our relationship, we seek to give Him something that is worthy of His receiving, only, like five year olds, we are incapable of creating anything of this quality.
“I give Him my love,” people say. “and my worship, and my faith.”
You Didn’t Make These
That’s all fine and good, but they’re not yours, you know — we love Him because He loved us first (1 John 4: 19) and the very faith we need to believe in and trust Him generates from God Himself — John 6: 44 tells us, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him,” and Ephesians 2: 9 reminds, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God — not by works, so that no one can boast.”
But too frequently we do boast, attributing our feelings of love, the songs we sing, our upright and righteous external activities, as gifts that we generate from within ourselves and graciously offer to His hands. We forget that any mercy, any grace, any kindness or compassion or form of righteousness that we exhibit, are essentially items on God’s dresser that we pull off and wrap.
In John 14: 23, Jesus tells us, “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.” Because God lives within us, we tell ourselves that we should be good, always, and if we’re not, then we’re not real Christians somehow.
But Galatians 5: 7 reminds us that “the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature, They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want.”
Saved, but Sinners
We are saved, but we must not forget that we are saved sinners, and as long as we live on this earth, we will battle with our flesh. Part of this battle means that we won’t always feel worshipful, grateful, patient, and trustful of God’s compassion and love in our lives. There will be a day when we long for and ache for something so badly, so achingly, so strongly — and God remains silent — that we lash out in anger and frustration.
And then immediately chastise ourselves because we’re not supposed to feel like that.
This happened to me. I had been in a state of prayer, for a long long time, for something — a wild irrational dream that only God could put in my heart — but which He did not choose to fulfill, or take away. Standing at the edge of the beach, with the Red Sea in front of me and Pharoah’s troops behind, I gave Him the only thing I had left within me to give:
I gave Him my frustration, my anger, my hurt, my pain, my envy, my malice, my bitterness, my total and absolute distrust in His word and His nature, and I dumped it all at His feet. It was a pathetic, ugly offering, but as far as anything I could generate or make, all on my own, it was all I had. I emptied myself of myself, and asked Him to fill me with Him.
It’s in the Bible as Well as in Our Hearts
If you can’t do this, if you can’t admit that these feelings abide deep, deep within you, then be Scriptural and just read God a verse:
“Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?” (Psalm 10: 1)
“Why have you forgotten me?” (Psalm 42: 9)
“Will you be to me like a deceptive brook, like a spring that fails?” (Jeremiah 15: 18)
These thoughts, deep in our hearts, are no surprise to God — but until we allow Him to show them to us, we will mistakenly think that we do not have them. And we will continue to pluck gifts off His dresser, wrap them up in our own paper, and offer them back to Him, as if we had actually created them ourselves.
Thank you for joining me at Commonsense Christianity. Just today, I read a blog by a Christian castigating herself because she was impatient in her waiting, and she wasn’t rejoicing and singing through the long, long process of nothing-really-happening that she was going through.
Waiting is hard enough. Why make it worse by trying to be someone we are not, and insisting that we intrinsically possess attributes that only God can give us, and this only through our submitting to His Son?
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