At this time of year, before getting too wrapped up in what we might soon get, it’s worth pondering the many blessings we have already received. I believe God has given us much more than we even realize, and sometimes it can do our hearts good to also thank Him for things that we don’t even know He’s done. To illustrate, I want to share a story written by one of our earliest program facilitators who said:
Many years ago, my son Christian, did not understand the principle, “It is more blessed to give than to get”. The actual quote says ‘receive’, but I would like to redefine receive a little later on in this and future discussions, so I am going to take the liberty of differentiating between getting and receiving.
It is not hard to see the wisdom in this maxim. Proper giving is an act of selflessness, while a focus on getting is an act of selfishness. It is not uncommon to see this kind of selfishness occur among young children as this is something they need to learn and be taught by wise adults. …
Apologies for Gifts
Not only is it better to give than to get, but it is also important to give of ourselves. It was in one of his essays entitled “Gifts”, Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “Rings and other jewels are not gifts, but apologies for gifts. The only gift is a portion of thyself. Thou must bleed for me. Therefore the poet brings his poem; the shepherd, his lamb; the farmer, corn; the miner, a gem; the sailor, coral and shells; the painter, his picture; the girl, a handkerchief of her own sewing…”
Gifts made of personal sacrifice are even more significant, such as when a child gives up something very special to them like a favorite toy, or when one gives up something they were looking forward to for themselves to someone else who needs it more than they do. Now the gift becomes a meaningful, a life affirming, yes, even a spiritual experience. We become something of a messenger of God; an archetype of Christ. I suppose that would actually make us more Christ-like in our way of being and understanding.
I learned this lesson in a very poignant way … when I was at my high school’s 30th annual reunion. I was speaking to one of my former classmates about an event I was involved in … a couple of weeks after high school graduation [when] I was in a tragic automobile accident. Another of our classmates was in the same car and was killed. I survived but was in critical condition, underwent immediate surgery and was in the hospital for a couple of weeks. But the lesson was this: I did not recall much about those weeks in the hospital.
During my conversation with this sweet classmate, I made mention of several mutual friends who had been to see me often while I was staying in the hospital and expressed my appreciation for their caring enough to come see me, bring me food and other “gifts”.
“I was there”
Then this woman turned to me with what seemed like sadness in her eyes and said, “I too, visited you in the hospital back then. I came to see you everyday you were there.”
Wow! I was floored. I had no idea. No recollection. Nothing. I felt bad that I did not know about her gift to me and I still didn’t know what to say. As I looked into her eyes and her soul I saw something that amazed me even more. I saw the personal sacrifice of her time, concern, love, and caring that she had shown, unbeknown to me three decades before, still reflected in her eyes and on her face. … I wanted to roll back 30 years of time to a place where one thoughtless kid could thank a beautiful, sweet girl for her gift of self. (Mark Andrew Beach)
Thank you Mark for sharing your experience, and reminding us all to be more appreciative and mindful, especially at this time of year. It makes me wonder how how often the Lord Jesus Christ has been there for each us, and how often he has stood nearby to give us strength and comfort, even when we didn’t realize it.
At Christmastime, I hope that we can each take a moment to ponder this, and reflect on the gift we were given when God sent his Son to become the Wonderful Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace. Our Savior has done more for us than we could possibly know or understand, but for me, imagining this young man in the hospital room has certainly helped.