The Unopened Gift
This was my December article for She Magazine.
The Unopened Gift
I really dig gifts. I mean, my family lovingly ridicules me for my lengthy lists at gift-receiving occasions. I can break it down to page numbers in favorite catalogs and links to items sold by online retailers. In my mind, I think I am being super helpful by being so detailed. The truth of it is that I just really enjoy receiving gifts, and I want to do everything I can to increase my chances of snagging the goods I want. Quite self-serving, I realize.
Maybe the fact that I also love to give gifts is something of a redeemable quality. It can take me several trips to several different stores to locate just the right gift for someone. And it doesn’t matter if I’m buying for a child I really barely know or for my dear husband; it is my objective to arrive on the scene with a thoughtful, perfect gift. I so enjoy giving a gift that the recipient prizes!
So, it’s surprising – even to me – that I allowed an unopened gift to remain under my tree for fourteen Christmases. Yep, fourteen Christmases. How does one do that, you may ask. It wasn’t as difficult as you might imagine. We always have gifts left under our tree after Christmas – gifts for loved ones we didn’t get to visit with over the holidays. We put them aside when we disassemble the tree, and we store them until we’re able to make a delivery. That’s kind of how it went with the unopened gift. It was for me. It was adorned with generous red shiny paper and a perfect green bow. It was beautiful, but Christmas after Christmas I chose not to accept it. I would easily preoccupy myself with the other gifts that bore my name. “I don’t need that one,” I would think to myself. Months would pass; life would distract me, and I’d forget about it for a while. Until the season returned and the shimmer of the red paper caught my eye once more. Somehow it never grew dusty and never showed wear or age…
Truth be told, I had a grievance with the giver. I heard negative things about him, and I also made up my own rubbish about him too. You know how we tend to do that – assume the worst and then embellish that in our imaginations. I didn’t trust him a bit, and each year I would argue that I didn’t need his stinkin’ gift since I had already gone so long without it. I was sure that he would expect too much in return if I dared to unwrap it. But there it sat each year, under my tree. I would glare at it sometimes. At other times, I would sit by it washed in the tender glow of strung lights. And still at other times, I would evaluate it with my head tilted and eyebrow cocked with interest.
There were people in my life who lovingly encouraged me to open it; they were confounded by my obstinacy. Others tried to dissuade me from opening it – feeding my doubts and distrust. Another contingent boasted about knowing the giver and having received gifts from him, but their words were hollow and not convincing at all. I refrained from opening the gift…
Until one night when I found myself in the midst of a crowd who wanted me to unmask the mystery. In a moment I claimed the gift and tore into it in a flash. I don’t know what I expected it to feel like, but it was so light – surprisingly light. And what I found inside changed the course of my life. It was the love of One who had loved me all along. It was pure and perfect and delightful, and I had been wrong, wrong, wrong for years. I had been mistaken about the Giver – who He is and what He wants from me. I found Him to be tender and merciful, forgiving and patient, powerful and gentle, compassionate and true. And you know what – He never asked what took me so long. He was not angry that I had been so stubborn. He just smiled and was pleased.
Every good action and every perfect gift is from God. These good gifts come down from the Creator of the sun, moon, and stars, who does not change like their shifting shadows
(James 1:17, New Century Version).