Wednesday, June 8, 2011

My Father's Gifts

My dad is gone now, but when I was a girl, he taught me to delight in beauty and adventure. He could turn a perfectly ordinary day into an event simply by offering to take us for a ride. We always knew what that meant--he had a plan to transport us to one of the world's treasures. He had found a garden in extravagant bloom, or a grassy hillside perfect for juvenile tumbling, or a hidden cabin, or a valley falling away from a blue mountain. Part of his charm lay in that he never revealed our destination ahead of time but, when we arrived, he simply flung his arms as though he conducted this private symphony for us alone saying, "Here it is. I made this just for you. Isn't it wonderful?"

Of course, Dad never made any of those destinations. You did. He did show me something important about You in the process, however. You continually give. You lay something in my lap every day, something I never imagine even existed. And then I do the same thing to Your gift as I did to Dad's; I take if for granted. I underestimate it. I shrug it off. I sometimes even ruin it. I never value it as highly as it deserves. You continually do what Dad did on a grand, universal scale. You give perfect gifts to broken men. You, however, have additional instructions.

Each one should use whatever gifts he received to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms.--1Peter 4:10

So I get these wonderful gifts from you--life, the ability to love, skills, knowledge, health, strength--and I have to give them away to other broken men. Have You seen the mess we make of them? You love me perfectly, but I cannot love anyone else perfectly. I give my pitted and tarnished love to someone else, they add their own measure of imperfection, then pass on the increasingly marred product, and so on. Entropy in its saddest form.

I don't want to give anything away. I can't see any possible result but hurt and disappointment. I am stuck in my own skin, able to experience nothing except from my own perspective. My own experience is the only one I can ever completely know, but You want me to crawl out of myself and walk in someone else's shoes. You want me to share myself completely with someone I know will disappoint. You give me gifts and tell me to count each one for the sole purpose of sharing it.

Do not think of yourselves more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment in accordance with the faith given you. In Christ, we who are many form one body and each member belongs to all the others.--Romans 12:3,6

This, I think, is one of the truths in this: believers share a basic identity in one another. You have ordained this. I cannot divorce myself from other believers when they disappoint me because we are joined in You and by You. My husband, Dave, says that we all tend to think ourselves better than we are. This is true. We also expect other believers to be better than they are. You know this, too, of course, and have provided for it.

So, like my dad, you pour gifts into imperfect, ungrateful vessels. Then, you tell me to pour them into other imperfect vessels with the promise that, if I do so faithfully, You will not only continue to give, but You will renew and replace what we have lost or ruined in our imperfection. Your gifts came perfectly from You and are transferred among us in ever perfect condition, not because we made them so, but because You do.

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