The Gift and The Giver

August 18, 2009 | 19 comments

The presents were lined in front of the birthday girl — bags and boxes filled with games, books and new pajamas.

On one child’s face: delight.
On the other face: envy.

“Mommy,” Anna asked, lower lip quivering, “Did I get that many gifts at my birthday? I think Lydia got more than me. You love her the most.”

I scooped her onto my lap, to catch tears and hurts and replace them with assurances of love. “Oh honey, we love you the most, and we love Lydia the most. We love you both the most.”

We try to spend the same amount on both children. We really do. But right then, that didn’t matter, for the wrapped evidence stacked on the carpet suggested otherwise. There were more presents in front of her sister.

To a child unable to calculate the worth of a gift, it’s not the cost that matters. It’s all about the number of presents she can tear into.

I assured Anna that despite the way it looked, we loved her just as much as her sister: The Most. I reminded her that no matter how many gifts she gets, the most important thing to remember is that our love motivates our giving.

The lesson seemed so simple — until I had to relearn it for myself when my husband held a jagged loaf of bread before me.

“The body of Christ, given for you, Jennifer,” he said.

I tore a chunk from the loaf and dipped this priceless gift in a cup, wrapping it in red.

“The blood of Christ, shed for you,” he whispered.

And my heart of stone melted with this Gift between fingertips.

With one hand on my groom
And the other dipping into blood of the Bridegroom
I rediscovered the worth of the gift:
a God-Man
who lay down His life
for me
because He loved us all
the most.

***

I’m going to Get Down to Truth with you: I’ve been the jealous little kid at the birthday party. That’s the lesson I learned while working at a spiritual retreat this weekend with my husband.

I’ve sorely miscalculated the worth of my gifts because I’ve gotten so caught up comparing my gifts with others’ — in a covetous way.

These last few days, I’ve had to ask myself some tough questions:

Do I realize the cost of the gifts I’ve been given freely — bought at a price on the Cross?
Do I seek the gifts, or the Giver?

With fingertips touching a red-dipped Gift this weekend, I felt a fresh sting of tears. I crawled up on the lap of the Giver and found there an assurance of His love as He whispered in my Spirit:

“Jennifer, I love you the most, too.”

***

The bride eyes not her garment,
But her dear Bridegroom’s face;
I will not gaze at glory
But on my King of grace.
Not at the crown He giveth
But on His pierced hand;
The Lamb is all the glory
Of Immanuel’s land
.
— from the hymn “The Sands of Time Are Sinking” by Anne Cousin, 1857

***

Lord Jesus, Fix my eyes on you, the author and perfecter of my faith. Let me long for more of You, not what you can give.

(A pastor played this video at the retreat … God’s way of reminding me that my quest for the Gifts had blurred my vision of the Giver.)

by | August 18, 2009 | 19 comments

19 Comments

  1. Deb

    "Do I seek the gifts or the Giver?"

    Thank you for helping me to focus on my beloved Giver.

    And the price that He paid.

    His life.

    For me.

    May we never get over that gift.

    I love your writing style: journalist and poet.

    Embracing.

    Sweet dreams.

    Reply
  2. Lyla Lindquist

    Funny thing? Somewhere, there's someone really wishing they could trade in their two-liter for the tiny can.

    I want what she's got, she wants what he's got, and he wants what I've got. And there's a big lot of heavenly eye-rolling over it all.

    How is it I fuss over my carbonated quantities and miss Him altogether? Thanks for a scalpel-sharp reminder…

    Reply
  3. RCUBEs

    Very powerful indeed! Both your post and the video. May we not be distracted from having our eyes focused on Jesus! Blessings.

    Reply
  4. Beth E.

    Wow, Jennifer…what a powerful post. The video cut right to the chase, didn't it? I, too, have dealt with jealousy of other people's gifts. Thank God I don't deal with that anymore!

    It sounds like you had a wonderful retreat!

    Blessings,
    Beth

    Reply
  5. Jennifer

    "I've sorely miscalculated the worth of my gifts because I've gotten so caught up comparing my gifts with others'"–poignant and true of even myself when my eyes lose sight of Jesus and I decide to throw myself a pity-party that does nothing but make me more miserable. I am blessed by your honesty with yourself and with us.

    Reply
  6. Cherie

    This was really beautiful Jennifer. I'm going to keep that line with me for a while. "I love you the most!" That's powerful isn't it. It's better than I love you the same becuase God really has the capacity to live up to loving each individual the most. I hadn't really thought of it that way before. Thanks.

    August 17, 2009 11:18 PM

    Reply
  7. Wendy @ All in a Day's Thought

    Wow, Jennifer…this really spoke to me. I've always struggled w/ taking on the role of the prodigal son's older brother. God is forever telling me how special I am to Him. I love the lines about taking the bread of Christ.
    ~ Wendy

    Reply
  8. mom2six

    He loves us all the most…amazing! "I will not gaze at glory But on my King of grace." Will be rejoicing in thi today! Thanks.

    Reply
  9. elaine @ peace for the journey

    Until we look past the gift to see the Giver, all we'll ever see is the gift. Whew…that's something. I won't lose this visual for a long time. Thanks, Jennifer. I needed this so very much.

    I should be grateful for any measure of goodness/giftedness that lands in my lap. All gifts from the Father pour everlasting, pure, and with a fullness that exceeds any temporary want. God forgive me for ever thinking it isn't enough…

    peace~elaine

    Reply
  10. Billy Coffey

    Ouch, this one hurt me a little. I'm guilty, too, of sometimes asking God why He didn't give me as much as someone else. And then He'll remind me that I've been given everything.

    That was beautiful, Jennifer.

    Reply
  11. L.L. Barkat

    Oh, that delight and envy moment. Makes me remember a little stuffed rocking sheep my sister got long ago. She was delight. I was envy. 🙂

    Reply
  12. janelle

    CONVICTED!

    Reply
  13. Warren Baldwin

    Jealousy and envy are unwelcome companions our whole lives! See James 3:16.

    I'm intrigued by your description here of the Lord's Supper. Was this a private observance? In church? Most churches uses unleavend bread but it sounds like you used loaf bread.

    I would like to be in an observance of it sometime in the context of a meal, like it was in the first century.

    wb

    Reply
  14. Sarah Dawn

    Your 'gifts' continue to bless me. Sweet one, thank you for using your gift of writing to share His love. And your honest real life to share His grace.

    God is writing a new song on my heart. Thanks for singing with me today.

    May the song of our lives, be to the tune of your heart, Our Lord.

    Listening to His song,
    Sarah Dawn

    Reply
  15. christy rose

    Jennifer, this post was so amazing! I can feel your heart in every part of it. I just came from Rosel's post on "God is Near." What she wrote and what you wrote went together and inspired me so much. I am speaking this Sunday at my church and I am feeling a pull on my heart's strings to go this direction in my message. See what God does with your gifts! Sometimes we have no idea the impact that our gifts have on others. Your gift is so much larger than you think that it is. So much larger! I believe that is what that video revealed to me. Jesus is the real gift. We have all been given Him egually. The evidence of our gift is revealed as we soak it up and let Him be manifested within our lives. We have to look past the physical existence we live in to see the true gift before we can enjoy any part of the physical evidence it brings into our lives.
    Thank you for this. It was beautifully written and packaged to present to true gift of Jesus!

    Christy

    Reply
  16. Jennifer

    What a beautiful post! Thank you for reminding me HE does love us all the most!!

    Reply
  17. Jennifer @ Getting Down With Jesus

    Warren, We served to one another communion at an ecumenical retreat. We're Lutherans. The pastor is Reformed. And there were many other denominations in the bunch. … We've had communion privately as well, which might ruffle some theological feathers (including in my own denomination). And we've taken communion in a corporate meal setting at a Maundy Thursday observance.

    Reply
  18. Deborah Ann Erdmann

    There is so much honesty and vulnerability in your writing. God has surely given you great gift!

    Reply
  19. Joye @ The Joyeful Journey

    Oh how God has been gently conversing with me about this–not only about seeking Him first, but also about the motives that I seek from.

    Thank you so much, Jennifer, for your transparency before God and before us! He has gifted you tremendously and you are a vessel of His Truth.

    He loves us the most! What an amazing love!

    Reply

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