Sunday, January 25, 2015

The Perfect Gift

For our fifth wedding anniversary, my husband gave me a $25,000 diamond pendant. That’s right, that’s with three zeroes. It is absolutely amazing! But I’m really not a flashy, diamond kinda gal. And it’s not like my lifestyle warrants wearing such an expensive piece of adornment: no galas or black tie affairs. The thought of losing it or having someone snatch it from my neck virtually paralyzes me with fear.  

“No one will even think it’s real! Only you and I will know its real value,” Scott tries to assure me.  

I’m not assured. I know how much he paid for it; I know how he worked and scrimped and saved – not a small feat for my husband, trust me.  

“The oils from your skin or parfum" -- it's parfum when it's made with oil and the word is spoken by a jeweler who deals in $25,000 pendants. "The oils from your skin or parfum will dull its shine, of course; some chemicals can cause permanent damage. Never wear it while spraying paint or caustic cleaners. A diamond of this quality needs to be properly cared for: examined and professionally cleaned frequently. And don’t forget to insure it.” The jeweler’s voice droned on. “This is crazy,” I thought; “I am not worth all this.” 

And so the amazing pendant sits. In a box. Except for the moment he first placed it on my neck, it has barely seen the light of day, and it has never known its full potential. Kind of sad, I guess, but who could risk something happening to it? 

We’ve recently added a family to our basement. That’s not a typo. Not a “family room;” I said “a family.” My son and his wife, and their daughter have taken up residence with us – something both Scott and I had always said we would never do. My stainless refrigerator doors are perpetually smudged, and sugar is usually sprinkled from one end of my island to the other. The water bill is likely going to be astronomical, and the electricity? Well, PECO will probably be inducting us into their hall of fame. Six months ago I would have been on heavy sedation, but when this opportunity came before us – yes, I did say “opportunity” – I asked God for the grace to walk in obedience through whatever plan He had.  

Scott hasn’t quite found that gear yet. “If you can’t find ‘em, grind ‘em!” So, he’s struggling. He’s trying to obey. He’s trying to keep things from getting to him. He’s trying to share his things, but he just can’t seem to be comfortable with it. 

So what does all of this have to do with that amazing anniversary gift? Well, I have a confession. There is no pendant. There is no desire for such an extravagance. There is no money for such insanity. But as I was using this analogy the other evening to describe to Scott how offended God is when we keep His gifts all to ourselves – no matter how honest our intentions -- the light bulb went on. 

The Gospel of Matthew (25:14-30) tells a story about a man who entrusted different increments of cash (talents) to his servants while he went out of town for a bit. Some invested and earned him more, but one, the one who’d been given the smallest amount, buried it “for safekeeping.” Now, I don’t know about you, but I’ve seen the effects of gambling and failed enterprise on the American family; I am not an investor. This servant sounded like a pretty smart cookie to me. “How pleased the master must have been the servant didn’t risk losing his share,” I’d always thought.  

“’You wicked and slothful servant!’ the master said.” 

What?!! It seems what the master really wanted was for his servants to use their gift, to get the most work out of his money. To increase and accumulate more of that for which he was known – worth. Do you see that flicker? I think everybody knows it’s right to put something in the offering plate, or help set up for the church potluck now and again, or even use our musical talents to serve, but how many know why? If we don’t understand why, exactly, I think we miss the personal motivation for obedience, and we will certainly not want to give any more than is required.
So how would Scott feel if his gift remained unused? How does God feel when we keep our doors locked and our carpets spotless like some Better Homes & Gardens curator, rather than a servant? Where’d all this stuff come from anyway? If we bury the gift somewhere deep in the back of our closet or clutch it to our bosom that no one else could possibly enjoy the experience with us, who will ever know anything about the nature of The Giver? Who will ever know His goodness, His grace? And if we hoard, if we place His gifts under lock and key, aren’t we really claiming them solely ours rather than something entrusted to us? How will we fully appreciate His marvelous character if we obsess over preserving the gift like some rabid squirrel, rather than basking in the kindness of The Giver?

I used to enjoy sitting in my home, quietly thanking God for all His wonderful blessings. And that's fine, I guess. But even that became empty. The joy I experienced in "owning" faded with the upholstery on the furniture. Now I share. Be it jewelry or refrigerator doors, vehicles or pasta salad, experience or talent, I've found an even greater kind of joy in serving and sharing with others. I've begun to experience the fullness of My Father's gifts and spread the good news about the generous nature of The Giver.

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