Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Gifts are really just that...

Do you ever wonder “why”? No, not why certain things happen, why there is evil in the world, why traffic acts like a slinky during rush hour? Those are all good questions but the “why” to which I am referring is the one that comes from self-reflection. It is the “why” that pops into our minds when we look in the mirror and notice a gift we have or perhaps the lack of a particular gift. It is then that we wonder why we have (or don’t have) that noticed characteristic. It is the “greater why” asking who we are or aren’t.
Every one of the roughly 6 billion people currently on this earth is different! Some are smart, really smart and some are not so smart. Some are beautiful and others are less blessed with physical beauty. Some are tall, or lean, or blond or even physically challenged. There are different races and some even feel they have the special gift of being from a certain state like say….. Wisconsin (which is generally only considered a gift on February 7th after the Super Bowl). Some are born to rich parents, some to modest families, and some to the very poor. Some are born in America and some in the Amazon Jungle. So the question that often springs into my consciousness and perhaps sometimes yours is “WHY”? Why me, why here, why now, why as I am, why do I have less of something I want and more of something I don’t?
The answer is simply “because!” Well maybe there is a bit more of an explanation, but in the end, it really is “because”…  It is what God has determined according to His plan. Most Christians understand God’s gift and sovereign nature so we are not surprised that gifts are given as God sees fit, at least intellectually. The real challenge for me is then translating that understanding into a living reality each day. That is, understanding that truth does not remove the wondering, the “why” that flows from our inquiring human minds.
Let me explain why this whole “why” thing is important and the struggles that result for me. I sometimes find my pride taking control, stepping to the forefront of my thinking and often I find arrogance creeping into my heart. I struggle as I compare myself with others. I feel good when I sense I am more gifted, especially if the gift is on the list of the World’s most important gifts. Ah, to be smarter, faster, better looking, stronger, richer, American, a cheese-head perhaps! I hope you’ll notice two things about the list. Firstly, those most important things, the one’s that make us feel superior are pretty much a gift of God (or a curse sometimes) and have little to do with us. Sure we can exercise and practice to improve some things, but mostly the foundation is purely a gift. Let me stress that again, those worldly attributes, the ones we brag about and condescend over have virtually NOTHING to do with us. There is absolutely no basis for pride or arrogance. Secondly, I’m not sure those attributes on the world’s list of important characteristics are even the most important, in fact I’m pretty sure they are not very important at all in God’s economy. Where is kindness, humility, a servant’s heart, loving, giving? Isn’t it interesting how truth is distorted and how importance is jumbled in our fallen world? Have you ever asked yourself simply, “would you rather be smart or kind”? If you are honest, it probably isn’t kind. We really tend to look down on the “stupid”… but then when you meet someone who is pure love, perhaps a special needs child, you will be convicted, you will see the real answer.
So I encourage you brother and sister, to resist the lies of the world and of the heart. Remember we are given a place, a purpose, a set of unique gifts for the sole purpose of serving and glorifying God. The gifts we have, the family, the birthplace, the race are neither better nor worse that any others. What we do with them in blessing our Father, in serving Him, now THAT matters. As we read in James, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” (James 1:17) I would argue the gifts from God, no matter which, are always good and perfect.
As Jesus taught, “Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” (Matthew 23:12) So as you are tempted to be proud of how smart you are, how beautiful, of your nationality or race, I encourage you to remember that you had nothing to do with any of that. You are where you are and what you are at God’s pleasure. And remember, those things you may think are blessings may turn out to be real burdens. I think Paul said it best when writing to the Romans:
“For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: “(Romans 12:3-6a)
Think not too highly nor too lowly but rather in the mirror see an exactly created, deeply loved, instrument crafted to fit the Master’s hand perfectly for his purpose, for his plan, for his glory as we allow him to use us to shape eternity. We are blessed just as we are, to bless others just as our Lord will allow.