Monday, December 24, 2012

Loving The Gift More Than The Giver

(Never worship any other god, because the Lord is a God who does not tolerate rivals. In fact, he is known for not tolerating rivals.) ~ Exodus 34:14, GW

The story is told of a well-known pastor who lost his voice.  Despite visiting doctors, weeks passed with no sign of his preaching voice returning.  In his frustration, he prayed to the Lord, "How could you let this happen, God?  I am proclaiming Your word and bringing people to a saving knowledge of you."  

In his pleading the preacher heard a shocking response from God.  "Do you love Me or do you love preaching about Me?"  Instantly, the pastor felt convicted.  He spent the remainder of his time in silence, growing in love of his Savior rather than being focused on his abilities as a gifted speaker.  In God's timing, and after this learning experience had served its purpose, the preacher's voice returned once again, speaking with more wisdom and humility than before.

This past month of Advent has been a time where I have found myself "voiceless."  Running my children to doctors and hospitals multiple times a week has dampened my spirits and made Christmas joy seem like an impossible dream.  I have been laid bare, wondering what God's purpose is in our lives, what is all this chaos supposed to look like, and wondering if I am actually accomplishing anything that is of eternal value.

I have wrestled with the Lord in my frustration, pain and disappointment as He has allowed the suffering of both of my children with special needs to continue in unrelenting ways.  It barely seems like we get our heads above water before our feet get kicked out from underneath us again.  I have thought in anger, "Really God?  THIS is how you treat your friends?"  And I have even attended a worship service where I was so worn from the pain that I could barely stand, sing or give thanks.

Yet, I serve a loving God.  He loves me in spite of myself.  Much like the preacher, I found Him asking me, "Do you love the gift or the Giver?  Do you only love what I can do for you or do you love Me?"  I felt convicted that I would only praise Him or acknowledge His faithfulness when my children are restored to health or when He directs circumstances to go the way I would like them to go.  All of the sudden, I found that the Lord gave incredible meaning to my Advent.  Not only have I been humbled, but I have also realized that in this season where we place so much on the gift of Jesus' birth, we can actually forget about loving the Giver.

Too often, in our modern practice of faith, it's all about God coming to rescue ME.  My salvation.  My purpose.  My meaning in life.  My eternal happiness.  I am incredibly grateful that He grants all of that to me and more.  As Scripture says, "We love because He first loved us." (1 John 4:19, NIV)  But what I seem to forget is that He wants us to be in loving relationship with Him.  He wants to be the object of our affection, just as we are His.  And God forbid that we should love anything He gives us or does for us more than we love Him!

As I have spent time pondering the virtually incomprehensible incarnation of the Savior of the Universe since this revelation, I have found myself loving Him more for who He is and for the nature of His character.  I have spent more time in wonder and amazement rather than entitlement and avarice.  Yahweh God took all that immense power and contained it in the form of a tiny baby born in the most undesirable of places.  The Creator became the created.  He left all of that immeasurable glory to enter the deepest darkness.  All of this He did because of a love so vast that He would spare nothing to be in intimate relationship with what He had created.  Wow!

And this epiphany has given me the opportunity to help my children get their precious hearts in the right position for Christmas.  As I wrapped presents with them, it gave a perfect, tangible example to explain that we should never love the gift more than the giver.  They have had a tough month, and that can easily foster a  selfish attitude of entitlement.  Yet, if I direct their young hearts properly, they will be left with a contentment and joy that transcends any finely wrapped treasure they could find under the tree.  Because when we love the Giver more than the gift, our hearts are beyond full and we are blessed exceedingly, abundantly more than we could ever ask, think or imagine.

Merry Christmas!

PRAY:  Lord, you allow the circumstances of life to ebb and flow.  May I never love what You do for me or give me more than I love You.  Holy Spirit, when I am weighed down, quickly bring to my mind Your divine character.  Help me to remember who You are and why I love You.  Because knowing and loving You is far greater blessing than anything You grant me in a temporal way in this passing life.

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