I can’t help but reflect on the gifts I have received over the years as I’ve left the gift giving season of 2014 behind. There were rare occasions when I received a gift that I really wanted. Christmas of 1951 I received a horse. I wasn’t expecting a horse, I hadn’t even dreamed of getting a horse, but never the less there she was. When I think about the way I discovered the gift it reminds me of the way Ralphie found his treasured Red Ryder BB gun in “A Christmas Story”.
After all the gifts had been opened, Dad said, “I think there’s one more back behind the tree, there in the corner. It was a bridle, wrapped without a box, and when I opened it my first thought was “oh whoop ta dee” a store bought bridle for Merrylegs, Nick’s Shetland pony. The bridle we had, up to that point, had been made entirely by Dad, including the bit which he fashioned out of very heavy gauge copper wire he undoubtedly scrounged from the scrap heap at the refinery. But when I held it up for further examination I realized it was way too big for Merrylegs.
As I headed for the back door toward the horse lot I imagined a gleaming Black Beauty would be awaiting me at the barn. But unlike Ralphie, who would have suffered similar disappointment had he found a cork gun in the box he opened, I found a skinny red speckled white mare which looked as though she was soon destined for the dog food factory. We named her Ginger, after the nasty tempered grey mare in Black Beauty. Thus began a long term love/hate relationship that actually lasted into my late 20;s when I was present as she breathed her last in a barn near Uncle Jelly’s farm, where she had spent the last 20 years of her life bringing in the milk cows every evening.
I believe that almost everyone has received at least one gift like this one at some time or another in their life. Gifts are generally associated with either a birthday or Christmas, which when you think about it is a birthday celebration, though today I don’t think that a majority of people associate Christmas with the term “birthday.” But, however you think of gifts and the reason for them, we all have to acknowledge that there are gifts we have little appreciation for. For some people a gift is accompanied by a receipt, so the recipient can exchange it for something they like better, something that fits better or that is preferred over the original.
Gift giving didn’t originate in that stable 2000 plus years ago, but it has become the primary reason for the season whether people like it or not. That particular gift did not come with a receipt that we could use to redeem for something more to our liking. It did come with the option of being opened or left under the tree. The idea of gifts at that time of year has become tradition because of the Magi and the gifts they brought to the stable. They were visible, tangible usable gifts and thus we tend to think in those terms when we think about gifts. But, what about intangible gifts, the ones we tend to ignore or overlook?
Each one of us has “gifts”, natural abilities, talents and passions. These things are often ignored, and they’re ignored just as often because we don’t appreciate them anymore than I appreciated that speckled old mare, because she wasn’t what I wanted. Just as often we put those gifts on our “Aunt Lizzavie” shelf. You know the one, the top shelf where it can be ignored like the purple glass grapes or the ugly tie that “Aunt Lizzavie” gave us last Christmas, which we only take out when she’s in town and then quickly put back on that shelf as soon as she leaves so we don’t have to look at it, or think about it again until she returns.
We all have “gifts”, abilities, talents and passions that Abba has given us. But, all too often we treat those gifts like purple glass grapes and ugly ties which we put away on our mental and emotional “Aunt Lizzavie” shelves in our mental and emotional “Aunt Lizzavie” hall closets or worse yet our mental attics where they do nothing but gather dust over the years.
How do I know this tendency so well? I know it because I spent so many years of my life doing everything I just described; either leaving gifts unopened, failing to appreciate them because they weren’t exactly what I thought I should have, or taking them out only occasionally when my mental “Aunt Lizzavie” put in an emotional appearance.
I spent most of my life feeling sorry for myself because I hadn’t received the gifts I wanted, beauty, brains, the winning lottery ticket. In short, I was seldom a truly happy person, and by truly happy, I mean someone who awakened each and every morning with the sense that life was good, that I would spend that day secure in the knowledge that whatever came my way would be for the best, and would be what Abba intended for me at any given moment.
Today I am delighted with the gifts I have received because I finally took them down from the “Aunt Lizzavie” shelf of my mind, opened them up and set those purple glass grapes out on the coffee table of my life for all to see.
Have you considered what the moment will be like when you are face to face with Abba at last, and how you’re going to account for the gifts He gave you? How about it? What’s on your “Aunt Lizzavie” shelf?