this is that time of year i think a lot about gifts. giving and getting.
i feel much more comfortable in the giving to be honest. i think it probably has something to do with fear and disillusionment from years when the gifts i received weren’t exactly what i had in mind.
i’m always a little timid to unwrap what others lay in my hand to open. but i have learned that good gifts do come in all shapes and sizes if i hold my eyes open to see into the heart of the giver.
some gifts are wrapped in glitter and bows, some frayed at the edges. some are impeccably timed, others ill-timed. some gifts plainly wow us, some stretch us. some need peeling back and turning to every angle to finally see the purpose.
and in life, we have no control of those gifts left at our door that we didn’t see coming.
these are the ones that may take some shaking , pondering, processing , lots of unwrapping and time to understand fully.
i’ve had my share of each. and i’ve had to bravely look into the eyes of The Giver and believe Him to be good….no matter what. even if the gift He gives takes me to my knees. and the gift of loss does that to me every time. it takes my feet out from under me. it leaves me tossing and turning- sleepless. it hollows me out and leaves me wondering if life will ever be the same again.
in A Grief Observed, C.S. Lewis so clearly depicts the human wrestling match with grief and loss. i carry his quote with me always…mostly because i always botch it when trying to quote it from memory.
You never know how much you really believe anything until it’s truth or falsehood becomes a matter of life and death to you. It is easy to say you believe a rope to be strong and sound as long as you are merely using it to cord a box. But suppose that you had to hang by that rope over a precipice. Wouldn’t you first discover how much you really trusted it ? Only a real risk tests the reality of a belief. – C.S. Lewis
and so it is with loss, we are putting our belief to the test and asking God if His grip will hold. i have my own theories as to the nature of how pain impacts our souls- but the truest thing i know is that it shapes us like nothing else can.
it cuts to the marrow of us. it strips all pretense. it reminds us of our frailty with each waking moment -where hanging from that rope is our only option.
and these, these realities are precious gifts.
so “why a gift” you may ask? how can it be that pain and loss can yield something resembling a gift ?
as unlikely as it sounds, the gift IS the ache.
because amidst pains’ stripping- we can’t muster happiness, we can’t even manufacture a pretty life. all we are left with is ache and brokenness. but somehow this is the very soil of the heart that can take in the sacred presence of Jesus most deeply.
in all of our ugliness, emptiness and desperation we cry mercy. we cry come tend to the ache, Jesus come ! and in that place, our souls more clearly and fully see God as enough.
pain leaves us so beautifully defenseless and utterly weak-and it is here , in this space that our notion of God’s goodness is stretched and expanded. then, those gifts of pain become etched in our stories like bookmarks. holding the places in our lives – like reminders- of God’s extravagant mercy and love. they are also reminders of His invitation to keep hoping, even against all odds and amidst the dark of night…because He always comes.
so as we unwrap the gift of pain we begin to see how it has yielded desire and ache from it’s acute and insatiable pangs…then with the next layer of unwrapping we understand that the ache has yielded an ascended longing for the Father above all other things.
He knows this is the truest and deepest way we can know Him. really, completely, irrevocably KNOW it is He. His voice becomes crystal clear. and it is He who sweeps low, who tends our pain and calls us by name in the darkness. this is the place the human heart and soul are unfettered enough to commune with the Father in ways that cut into our very substance and acquaint us with sufferings’ gift. the pathway to a deep and abiding knowing that God is who He says He is.
and He is a God who invites.
He relentlessly invites us to stop fighting and refusing His gifts- no matter the cost. don’t hurry past pain, but take it in if it comes knocking on your door in the dark of night. open the hand, and let’s whisper a brave yes to the invitation to drink more deeply of Life with God.
so come, will you sit at His feet and open the gifts He has for you, even if they’re not what you had in mind this year?
“Someone I loved once gave me a box full of darkness. It took me years to understand that this too, was a gift” – Mary Oliver