People don't give you gifts to obligate you to them; they give them to let you know how much they love you. They don't expect the thank you - they just want to know you appreciate their love.
Because giving makes them as vulnerable as receiving makes me.
This was the conversation that started me down a different road a few days ago. What he was saying, what I got out of what he said. This was the conversation that made me think about God, about my response to Him and His gifts, about how hesitant I am even to thank Him, lest He notice how much I like something and take it away from me.
Thanks that used to flow like gushing water no longer pours from my heart, but pools silent as I internalize my excitement over special things. I say everything but how much I love something, someone, Someone.
It's going to have to overflow sometime. I wonder if it does, won't I drown in it?
I hold back my thanks too often, because I am holding a supposed right to be angry with God for taking it away. I hold back my thanks because the receiving makes me vulnerable, makes me obligated - because doesn't love require everything of me? And I don't have enough of anything to go around, and I know it's not going to be enough to make the person doing the giving happy.
Thank you notes scare me deep.
I didn't ever finish my wedding thank-yous, between moves and baby and photography. It is not that I don't want to send them. I still do. I still compose thank yous that bring me to tears remembering what was given - what people didn't realize they were giving. They were there, at my wedding. They were giving hope, dreams, promises to me, to us. They were sharing our happy.
But I couldn't dare receive our happy at the time. I felt guilty for it. Happy felt stolen. There were reasons. I still cry over them.
When you wall off your heart, everything becomes obligation. Everything that calls you outside the walls is more than you can bear. The only thing to break them down is love - real love. Love that is a Person - like the Word of God is a Person.
I grew up thinking "love is an action" - but He is a Person. I could no more comprehend love than I can comprehend God Himself.
I used to close my eyes sometimes and list off to God the things He'd given me that I was so thankful for - the chance to go to a real school, the mountains where we lived for a bit, the first love that took my breath away with everything I'd never dreamed for myself. But my parents pulled me out of school; we moved away from the mountains I loved; my first love walked out of my life.
I blamed God. Not that I would have said at the time, not until one night I remember vividly when I raised my fist to the heavens and told God I hated Him for taking my first love away in the way He had. It wasn't until years later that I finally asked Him "why" and He responded with "it wasn't My choice; it was his. And he wasn't just rejecting you... "
The Lord gives, and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.
Wasn't Job afraid his new children could be killed at any moment after God restored them to him? What did he do with his new gifts? Or was the Voice in the whirlwind so real to him that he could not shake the reality of God who was God? Was there more that Job recognized of God and His goodness through his encounter with God in his loss, more that enabled him to trust God with his new life once he was restored?
I think you must look at what I have and think, "how can she be so ungrateful? Look at what God has given her!" I think you must think that, because I think that, though I know the depth of grateful that I own, that doesn't spill over because I am clutching it behind heart-walls, because I am shy to thank, hesitant to receive.
A "thank-you God" makes me vulnerable to Him. It means I have accepted His gift. It means if I lose it, it will hurt.
I'm like a little kid as I say that. I can feel the tears rising at the prospect. I can feel my lower lip beginning to tremble.
"Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good. His mercy endures for ever."
Give thanks. A call to grateful. A call to vulnerable. A call to humble. A call to broken.
He is good.
Do I believe that He is good? I am surrounded by goodness. Surrounded by gifts that make me every day vulnerable. If I receive them, will my heart be broken again? There is no guarantee that I won't. The wounds go deep. Bandaids don't fix them. The healing required is intensive.
Give thanks, for He is good.
His goodness is greater than my fear. Greater than my loss - the loss I have endured, the loss that I might endure.
His mercy endures forever.
If I am broken, His mercy...
We love Him because He first loved us. Because He gave Himself for us. While we were yet sinners - right where we were.
Love's giving does not require a response. It invites it. He invites it. He looks us in the eyes and says, don't you want to come into My heart? Don't you want to let Me into yours? Don't you want to know how much I love you?
Oh how I want to know...
Lord, for this, Your grace...
And here is Love's good.
Emily is hosting her usual Tuesday unwrapping party today. It's like a birthday party, all of us grown-ups being like kids for a little bit and tearing the paper off the gifts we get, oooh-ing and aaahh-ing and awhh-ing and then playing with it good, like Christmas every week. You're invited too. Go on and share your unwrapping today. There's paper all over the place already. What's a little more? He's so very good, isn't He?
(Image © Informal Moments Photography)