This Friday pastor post is by Mike Glenn, pastor at Brentwood Baptist in Brentwood TN. Mike is one of my favorite pastors I’ve met over the years. His young adult ministry (Kairos) is paradigmatic, and he’s a Cubs fan. He’s the author of The Gospel of Yes and In Real Time.
One year, for my birthday, my twin sons gave me a pair of boxer shorts. The boxers were white with very large and very green smiley faces all over them. The boys were beside themselves in the coup they had pulled off. They were at that age when underwear is funny and of course, funny underwear was even funnier.
I guess it’s the trial of every father to go through a few birthdays and Christmases getting gifts like ties with a horse’s head on it and yes, underwear with big green smiley faces.
I thanked my boys for their gift. We all had few laughs and I put the boxers away at the bottom of my drawer. I forgot about them. My boys didn’t.
They begin to ask why I wasn’t wearing the boxers they had given me. “You don’t ever wear the boxers with the smiley faces on them,” they would say to me.
“Oh,” I would say, trying to buy a little time, “I only wear them on special occasions.”
“Is today a special occasion,” they would ask.
If it wasn’t, it quickly became one and I would head back to my room and put on the boxers with the big green smiley faces. I would come out of the room and give the boys a quick shot of the upper band of the boxers and watch them dance around in the hall in sheer joy. I don’t know which the boys enjoyed more — giving me the boxers with large green smiley faces or knowing I was actually wearing them.
The lesson I learned has never left me: true gratitude isn’t just in the words of thanks, but in the living of the moment, in the enjoyment of the gift.
Nothing gives the giver more pleasure than seeing the gift loved and enjoyed. A husband watches his wife as she looks at herself in the mirror and twirls the new necklace he gave her for her birthday. She’s loving the gift, but the one who has the most joy is the husband.
Parents look out the window and watch as their son polishes his new car just given to him as his turns sixteen. Sure, the car is used, but it’s new to him and while he lovingly polishes every inch of chrome not being able to believe his good fortune, no one is feeling more blessed than his parents for having the chance to give him that car. Every time they see their son driving off in his new car, the parent’s joy returns. Their son loves their gift. Who could ask for more?
All of us have had the embarrassing let down of giving a gift that we thought would change a person’s life only to find out later they’ve never used the gift at all. Did they not like the gift? Was something wrong with the gift? Was it the wrong color? The wrong size? Does the gift need to be taken back?
Or was the gift just wrong? Which would mean we were wrong…that stings.
I wonder if God sometimes feels this way about His gifts to us? Sure, most of us are taught to say thank you from our childhood. It’s one of the polite manners our parents teach us. We’re told in church to be grateful and so, we are. Most of us say thanks to God in some way or another throughout our day. Even the occasional “Thank God!” from an unbeliever counts.
Yet, there’s more to gratitude than just saying thanks. True gratitude is in the use of gift, the enjoyment of the love symbolized in the exchanged object. To hold the gift, to use the gift, to enjoy the gift recreates in each moment the love given in the gift. There is something of the Father’s love in each gift that can only be rekindled in the use of the gift.
Grace isn’t meant to be put on the shelf.
Mercy can’t be framed and hung on the wall.
One of my good friends here in Nashville is, as you might guess, a musician. Not just any musician but one of the most respected arrangers, composers and conductors in the nation. Every time I hear him play, I’m stunned at how deeply the music moves me. Sometimes when he plays in church, I will lose myself in the moment and someone will have to tell me to get up and preach.
Yet, what I saw as an amazing gift, he carried as a crushing burden. Being aware of his talent, my friend constantly pushed himself to be perfect. Not just good, but perfect. He was tense when he played, stressed when he was hired to perform. For years, he would make himself miserable obsessing over every performance, every note in every song.
One day, I complimented his playing and he mentioned how miserable he had been in his performance. I couldn’t believe what he was saying.
Finally, I leaned over and said, “You do know Jesus gave you the gift of music to enjoy with Him, don’t you? Music is something He wants the two of you to do together. He didn’t give you this gift to punish you, but to bring you joy.”
Sure, be grateful for the love God has shown to you in His gifts, but if your gift is music, play often and play loudly.
If your gift is dance, then dance!
If your gift is prayer, then relish the deep and silent moments when your prayers go beyond words.
If your gift is teaching, then teach every chance you get.
The Father gave us these gifts so we could do them together –with each other and most importantly, with Christ Himself.
This Thanksgiving, be grateful…and live your gift for all it’s worth.
Nothing pleases the Father more.