I like buying presents, especially for the Fairest Flower in all Christendom Hope. If you are married long enough (35 years this year!), then all the obvious gifts are gone. You consider what she does not know she needs, save, plan, and hope for a good surprise.
Also helpful? Knowing what gift you should never, ever get, even if that gift seems sensible to you. My father-in-law is a hard working man and loving his daughter bought her a very good trumpet when she was in junior high school. This very good trumpet has collected dings and the brass has become worn in places. One day, early on, I was looking at “The Trumpet” and she knew.
“Do not ever ‘fix’ or touch my trumpet.”
She had read my mind. I learned a good bit that day about sound, brass, instruments, but mostly that I should never, ever, no never, not now or ever, fix her trumpet. The sweat had done work, but she liked the work the sweat had done. The dings were there, but the sound (I can testify) was magnificent. Do not mess with the trumpet.
There are obvious things to say about the trumpet if one wishes to derive A Lesson. The dings of life need not harm our sound, might even (somehow) help. Shinier is not always better. Often when we try to fix things, we do not. A person should never replate the played without the consent of the player.
If I needed a devotional with an object lesson, this all would work.
Instead, I shall draw a conclusion based on the situation as it was. I like giving gifts, but the gift, whatever the motive, has to be something the beloved wishes to have. There is a tacit consent needed in gift giving. Imagine getting a “gift” for a person that was really for oneself: like buying Hope a complete set of the original Star Trek comics. This would not be good, though even worse would be getting her something she did not want, but then using “gift” status for control.
“I picked this dress out just for you,” he said, “I know you will love it and I will love seeing you in it.”
This kind of manipulation is gross and foreign to love. Gifts are for the beloved and can never be for the giver.
Suppose for a moment that Hope is wrong and I could improve the sound of the trumpet. I could make it look prettier and sound better. I still must not touch the trumpet, because this is her very own, made sacred to her by years of making music, and is not mine. Imagine discounting her will in such a thing and doing as I willed, because (somehow) I know better. This is wrong. Gift giving cannot be a form of power or control or the gift is spoilt.
So what did I learn? I learned my lady wife did not wish me to touch her trumpet, so I did not. What can anyone else learn from this? You may not have a spouse and if you do, then that beloved may not own a trumpet. You can learn, as I slowly am learning that even a gift requires consent. A surprise, and I have tried a few, can only work if you know, already really know, that the unexpected trip, ring, concert is something she wishes to receive. If not, then the beloved can (and must!) say: “No.”
This is disappointing, but good. One can return the tickets, take back the gift, cancel the trip and try again.
Don’t touch the trumpet.