I threw away my birthday present. Not on purpose—I did not know it was my present. It was wrapped up in scrap paper and on a table with a bunch of other scrap paper and a bunch of other clutter that needed to be cleaned up. I was tired of looking at the mess. No one else was going to clean it up, so I gathered the scrap paper and put it in the recycling and gathered some of the other bits and started a pile for the thrift store.
A number of weeks later my husband (who was away at the time I reached my clutter threshold) was looking for the birthday present he had bought for me. He said it was wrapped in plain paper, but he would not tell me what it was. That is when my mind rebelled against the obvious answer. Surely it was not in that pile of rubbish I threw away! Surely I have not thrown it out by mistake?! Did I not check the pile of paper? Didn’t it all look like garbage? How could this have happened? Besides, what was my present doing in scrap paper anyway?!
Recently I have been struggling with our living situation. It is not the first time, and it probably will not be the last. I am just longing for a place of our own where we might actually be present long enough to bother finding a place for everything—where we might feel it is worth it to change the curtains or put pictures on the wall. We have been nomads a long time, and the desire for a home has been growing. We have been looking at different places to purchase but have not felt convinced about any of them. Hope deferred makes the heart sick (Proverbs 13:12), and that is how I was feeling. In fact, I started having this growing sickening sense that God was asking us to give up the search for our own home and stay in the house we are currently renting, the house I do not like. I really did not want to hear this message. Surely wanting a place of our own was not wrong.
As I was circling downward in self-pity, I remembered the birthday present. I threw it away because I did not recognize the gift inside the ugly wrapping. Could God be trying to give me a gift in wrapping paper I do not like? Can I receive what appears to me to be less, believing that all His gifts are good?
I cannot ignore the power of the imagery and the still small voice that accompanies it. God is speaking through this picture in my everyday life, and God has spoken to me like this before.
Years ago, our then youngest son was in his high chair and drinking out of a sippy cup. Once his cup was empty, he started to cry because he was still thirsty. I tried to get him to give the cup to me so that I could refill it but he would not. He just cried louder. Finally, I wrested the cup away while he wailed his frustration and anger. I refilled the cup quickly and handed it back. He quieted immediately and drank. At the time, I was convinced that God was showing me myself. I was holding on so tightly to my life, to what I thought I needed, that I was not allowing the Lord to refill my cup. I was resisting receiving the abundant life He wanted to give.
Now here I am again. I need to recognize and receive the gift. We have to lose our lives to save them, and we have to believe that every gift from the Lord is good—even if the wrapping paper is ugly.
Questions to consider: How have you seen God “trying to give [you] a gift in wrapping paper [that you] do not like”? How do you “receive what appears…to be less, believing that all His gifts are good”?
About the author
Cathy and her husband Paul have been serving the Lengo language community of Solomon Islands through language development and Bible translation since 2001. They came back to Canada to deal with the education needs of their children and are currently transitioning from having all five children at home to having one launched in university. They continue to advise the language program from afar and pray about when to return to their country of service.View all articles by: Cathy Unger
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