This journey for the past two months has been a process. Process? Hmm…some of my clients have come to dislike that word. But…it is a process and it has been churning beneath the surface for several weeks. I’m reminded of the picture I got while we were at Sea World. We were waiting for Shamu and his friends to make their grand entrance into the pool in front of us. The trainers had opened the gate and we were just waiting. Suddenly the water started to move as if there were some deep undercurrent. It flowed along in waves as if being stirred from deep within. As we watched suddenly Shamu and friends began jumping, no flying out of the water to do belly flops or nose dives right in front of us. Yes, there was definitely movement under the surface. Getting these thoughts on the page was much like that as they began swirling under the water in the deepest undercurrents of my heart…making it to the surface of my mind in a literal way to splash across the paper. The process…as God has been orchestrating these thoughts…
Did you get a gift you didn’t want, didn’t need, and didn’t care about, had no use for, etc…? Or perhaps you didn't get a gift and you know it was a message of, "you're not worthy of one. How did you respond, or better question: how did you react? I was always taught: it’s the thought behind the gift that counts; just be thankful.
Have you ever been excited about giving someone something? You plan, contemplate, prepare, and meditate on just the right gift. There is no doubt in your mind this is definitely something you think they could use, and you want to be the one to bless them with it. A lot of thought goes into the choosing, planning, wrapping, and you think it would be purposeful for them. Can you see the making of a disaster, like storm clouds swirling on the horizon? Yep! You got it…expectations! When the presentation comes after so much thought and preparation and then the gift is rejected, one might feel that not only is the gift rejected, but the giver is rejected. So it goes much deeper than just the gift. Because so much of oneself went into the preparation and presentation of that gift, one could very well feel rejected. If you are like me your flesh rises up and the offense demands revenge. You might want to retaliate in any number of ways, depending on the severity of the rejection or how many times it may have happened. One of the first responses might be, “I’m done!” How can someone be so ungrateful? Guilty! First judgment, then anger, then bitterness and resentment! Yep! I'm SO GUILTY!
You thought about it, planned it for weeks, and mulled it over and over in your mind of what the presenting of that gift might be like…the unveiling, if you will. You picked just the right bag, just the right paper, and just the right time to give it, only to discover at the moment of unveiling; or maybe there was no unveiling, and the recipient totally rejected the gift altogether. It is here that the thought enters one’s mind that the recipient either forgot or never learned, “It’s the thought that counts.”
I say I’m guilty, I really can’t remember receiving a gift that I was totally disgusted with, perhaps a few that I had trouble finding a use for, but, again, I was taught, “it’s the thought behind the gift that counts. But, I’m talking about something entirely different. I’m reminded of the Israelite's as they left Egypt, in the midst of miracles, I might add. God parted the Red Sea and they walked through on dry ground! They were hungry and God fed them with Angel’s food. But it didn't take long for them to get tired of the mundane and familiar food, forgetting that they are in the desert with God taking very careful stock of their situation and performing another miracle to feed them. Their response was, “He has brought is out here in this desert to die!” I think we could definitely say there is a little bit of ungratefulness going on here. Talk about entitlement? Can you here the undertones, “We deserve better than this!” And they actually complained, “We had it better in Egypt!” Oh, My Goodness! Really?! Wouldn't you be tempted to throw the manna on the ground and say, “Fine, go back to Egypt then!” As you walk away to leave them to themselves. But God didn’t do that, amazingly enough! Although it does sound like from scripture at some point that the thought might have crossed his mind, except that he's God! Oh yeah! So, due to more unfaithfulness, he allows them to wander in the desert for 40 years. He makes good on His covenant promise with Abraham, brings them into the land flowing with milk and honey. But it isn’t long before they forget all the miraculous things He has done for them. But God continues to execute his plan to redeem his people.
”But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son.” This was His plan from the beginning of time. The plan originated in the mind of God, orchestrated by The Son, and executed by the power of The Holy Spirit, bringing it to life. The Creator became the Created, The Giver became The Gift, and The Infinite became The Infant. " (Charles Swindoll).
As I reflect on this, I realize, “I’m guilty!” God gave me the greatest Gift of all, His son. And I accepted it, only to slip Him (yes, Him, The Gift), in my back pocket and head out onto life’s sea expecting Him to calm the waters for me so I can sail on through my life’s journey with minimal upheaval or disturbance. You see, I had a plan! I took The gift and attempted to use Him for my own selfish gain…something like a cosmic Genie that I attempted to use for my own benefit so all would go well with me, and of course my family. I wanted the blessings, but I didn’t really care much about the Blesser unless my life was guaranteed to go well. So, if you had asked me directly about that, I would have vehemently denied it; but it is true. I can see it clearly now!
“I Can See Clearly Now” the rain is gone…I can see all obstacles in my way…Gone are the dark clouds that had me blind…it’s going to be a bright, bright, sunshiny day!…Oh sorry, I got a little side tracked there. If you got thrown off, that’s a song from the 70’s. If your interested…listen here.
Okay so back to business here. I’m not sure where that thought originated from because my life as a child wasn’t all roses and ice cream. Difficult for sure when my sister’s clothes caught on fire when she was three and I was six. I was the one that put the fire out, and she spent a year in John Sealy Hospital in Galveston. So, right there is proof that God does not protect us from all of life’s difficulties and heart aches. So back to the original idea of God’s grace being sufficient for me to prevent me from retaliating in my flesh!
I must recognize that I have been that person; the one who complained, the one who was ungrateful, so ungrateful at one time that I trampled on the pearls…I was the swine. uh, sounds terrible, but it’s true. (Matt 7:6). The Gift was given one night long ago as shepherds kept watch. The angels sang, the glory of God fell all around, the presence of God appeared as a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger… Grace…Grace… Grace….on His way to a cross.
So, as I reflect on The Gift this very Christmas…I repent, in the inner most sanctuary of my heart, allowing The Gift to be received again, and Grace realized. I dissolved into tears, as I realized I am guilty…I’m the ungrateful receiver of the most precious gift ever extended to man. Grace is realized as I am acutely aware that without Grace empowered by the Holy Spirit, I’d be sitting in my flesh agonizing over the battle in my inner parts of what my flesh would like to do about this giving thing. But Grace is realized, sin is put to death, and the Victory is won by the power of Grace, given as the Holy Spirit ignites it in my heart as passion to serve God becomes greater than my need to satisfy my flesh. And I really do want the Blesser more than the blessing! Ah, and perfectly realized on Christmas morning.
I’m suddenly free. Can I paint a picture for you? I’m a little kid…I’ve just learned that I can swim under water. I am submerged in the deepest part of the pool, with my arms and legs moving savoring the thrill of swimming under water. Can you imagine swimming, savoring the reality of being submerged in a pool of God’s unbelievable, marvelous, infinite, matchless Grace and it is saturating, permeating, soaking into every fiber of my being. Tears flow, cleansing is occurring, sin is being extricated from the inner cesspool of my wicked heart. I receive the forgiveness, and then I extend that same forgiveness to that person who rejected my gift.
That reminds me of the man who owed the king 10,000 talents of gold. The king was settling accounts and demanded payment. The servant couldn’t pay so the king ordered him, his wife, and his children, to be sold to repay the dept. The slave beseeched the king to give him more time. The king felt compassion and actually released the man from his debt. Then this slave went out to a fellow slave who owed him a small pittance comparatively speaking, seized him by the throat and demanded payment. His fellow slave also fell to the ground begging for patience to repay, but scripture states that the ungrateful servant was not willing, and had him thrown into prison until he could pay back what he owed. When the king heard about this he was deeply disturbed and inquired of the slave, why he acted thus; he then sentenced the man to the tormentors until he could pay all of the debt he owed. Matthew 18:34. Of course this parable is to explain that if we have been forgiven, then we are obligated to forgive in the same manner.
How can I pass judgment on someone else for a lesser act of evil than I’ve committed? “I’m SO GUILTY!”
If you have someone you need to forgive, may I encourage you to do so quickly. Perhaps you need to forgive yourself! Unforgiveness will land you into the lap of the tormentors. Scripture isn’t clear on what “tormentors” means exactly, but having walked in unforgiveness for a time, and seeing others who walk in unforgiveness, I can testify that the soul is vexed, and weighed down with many disturbances. Unforgiveness is a cruel taskmaster. They say it is drinking poison, expecting the other person to die.
Remember, freedom is swimming in a pool of grace allowing it to permeate your entire body as you swim in exhilaration of the reality of something that only God can bestow. Grace, grace, God’s grace, Grace that can pardon and cleanse within. Marvelous, infinite matchless grace…grace that is greater than all my sin… listen here.
God did it. “He did it through me.” I found joy in the journey…the ability to realize the plan that originated with the Father, executed by The Son, and empowered by the Holy Spirit in my heart…Forgiveness…isn’t that what he came for? I receive the gift. Will you?
I celebrated Christmas, by celebrating The Gift of The Giver. My heart rejoices…Thank you Jesus…