When the gift isn’t good enough

“God, you are the slim crescent of a moon that I see and my self is the earth’s shadow that keeps me from seeing all the moon. The crescent is very beautiful and perhaps that is all I should or could see; but what I am afraid of, dear God, is that my self shadow will grow so large that it blocks the whole moon..”  

Prayer of Flannery O’Connor 

I bought my nephew Landon a new winter hat. It’s blue, like his eyes, and fur-lined, an important feature when you live in the Pacific Northwest where winters can induce whipping wind, slamming rain, and falling snow.

The minute I put the hat on him, Landon reached up and jerked the hat off.

So I put it on him again.

And he jerked it off again.

Landon is just shy of turning one but he already has a strong sense of what he wants to wear or doesn’t want to wear and he did not want to wear that hat. It didn’t hurt my feelings.  Rare is the child that wants to wear a hat at that age.

But had he been older, say sixteen or twenty-one or thirty-seven, I might have second-thoughts about giving that person a gift the next time around.

For weeks now, we have been inundated with the threat – indeed the reality – of a government shut-down. Like you, I’ve been praying that members of Congress and Obama would come to their senses, grow up, and grow a heart and a brain, and do the right thing by the people who put them in office – you and me.

Instead, they are taking that precious gift we gave them, and like a petulant child, trashing it.

They have ripped the gift of serving this nation and thrown it across the room. They are acting ugly. They are thinking only of themselves and what they want. Not what’s best for the whole of us, as they were elected to do.

In addition to praying for our nation’s petulant leaders, I’ve been in deep prayer about something else. Another situation where a precious gift has been discarded with the same random reckless carelessness.

And it finally came to me, in the midst of praying, even God will not change the heart of the person who refuses His gifts. 

God hands us untold gifts each day. The day itself is such a gift. Instead of being grateful, all too often our response is to say to God: But that’s not the gift I wanted. That is not the gift I prayed for. That is not the gift I expected. That gift isn’t good enough. Take it back. I don’t want it. 

Then we run around like members of Congress bitching to all who will listen that God isn’t answering our prayers, that He is the most capricious giver ever. All the while we fail to recognize that the gifts of God, although rarely wrapped in the package we are anticipating, are far more of everything than anything we thought up.

Desire and selfishness are the blinders we don daily.

They narrow our vision for ourselves and others.

They warp our view of God, of the world, and of each other.

 We are too preoccupied trying to get our own way to stand in awe of all that is already before us.

Sometimes destruction comes about through no fault of our own. All too often, however, it is the result of our own unwillingness to grab hold of the gifts God offers us and to joy in them.















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  • AFRoger

    How ironic that Pentecost, the longest season of the church years, is also known as Ordinary Time. But then, it’s not ironic at all. Our narrow sense that giftedness and living in grace are not the ordinary things of life is the item that is skewed. In less than two weeks, we come to the first anniversary of my Mom’s death. She saw a lot in her 105 years of life, and I doubt that she could have imagined celebrating 49 years of marriage, but then go on to live 25 years as a widow. All was not a Thomas Kinkade painting, though, since her first 8 years of motherhood were as an unwed mother, a badge that surely made her a bit of a pariah in that tight-knit community back in the 30’s. But a week ago, we also celebrated five years of my wife’s brain-tumor-free status. If I had lost her five years ago, it still would have been more than enough to qualify as boundless grace and gift. Daily I celebrate the grace that a serious health scare I had back in February seems to have vanished as mysteriously as it appeared.
    If I die today, the life I have lived would be enough, more than enough. I have a wife who loves me to pieces, a wonderful daughter and new son-in-law. I can go to the tap and drink fresh water that is way better than bottled water, as much as I want. I have air to breathe, a roof over my head, friends, necessary work, sunshine in the changing leaves of the big leaf maple outside my window.
    All this is Ordinary Time.