Saturday, December 5, 2009

A Lesson In Giving

Full of turkey, thankfulness and a bit of anxiety about the week to come, I was headed back to school. Thanksgiving break was nice while it lasted but my traveling buddy, Elizabeth and I were now discussing what the next three weeks was going to require of us. As we continued to travel, Elizabeth complimented the fleece jacket I was wearing. It is a forest green Patagona fleece, made for comfort and locking in the heat. No one was using it at the house, so I was happy to claim it as mine.

Elizabeth said that she wants to ask for one for Christmas. The zip down ones bother her and she loves the way mine has one giant pocket up front like a sweat shirt (I love them too because you can hold hands with yourself in the pocket to keep your hands even warmer). I knew how expensive this gift was going to be for her parents. A creeping thought made its way to the forefront of my mind... What if you gave Elizabeth your fleece? No... I thought, I really like this fleece and this is the first one that fits me well. I need it really; all my other jackets are getting out of date and worn. Not to mention that the color even fits my personality. Can't you picture Elizabeth's reaction when receiving it? ... I can. I imagined myself handing her this item of value to me, a big bow hugging the pillow-like shape, and I placed it in her hands. Her eyes opened wide, and with an expression of excitement and wonderment, she hugged me; a big smile on her face and a warm feeling in the pit of her heart. Yep, I was going to give it to her. Now it was only a question of when and how creatively could I do it! It was strange, I was itching to give it to her now! I half wanted to yank it off me and hand it to her right then. I had decided in my heart what I was going to give and I desired to give it!

I had given clothes away before, but none had seemed as significant. This forest green fleece meant something to me, therefore it meant something to me to give it up. It was love that compelled me. There was a stronger desire to see my friend encouraged, than to see myself contented. This gift was not only an offering of love, but a sacrifice of something. The fleece would have been cool, inwardly I knew that I'd hoped for complements from friends. Therefore, the giving was also a laying down or letting go of my desire to uphold my reputation. That is why it was significant. I lost something that I cannot even keep forever anyway, to gain something that has been promised to me forever, namely... love, peace and joy.

After reflecting on this internal dilemma, I found a parallel. God once gave a gift, a gift that meant everything to him and it was his Son. I now more clearly understand the phrase, "What joy and sorrow meet.." When I gave the fleece, there was a bit of remorse, for it was a loss to me, but there was JOY in thinking about the recipient. If I felt these conflicting emotions, how much more so did God? When God gave up Christ to die on the cross, there was sorrow in seeing his pain, but there was joy in envisioning the recipients. As an awkward, lonely eighth-grader I accepted this gift. Tears running down, knees on the ground and hands lifted high, I thanked Him! For so long I had said no to the gift that God had decided in his heart to give to me. What if Elizabeth had said, "No thanks, I will buy my own." Oh, how that would have pierced my heart, and to know that I had for so long pierced the Creator's heart. It's a shame. Forgiveness of sin and a right relationship with God is a free gift, one intended to bless the recipient.

Tis' truly more blessed to give than to receive.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Leaves of Life

I was on a walk. With ipod in and walking shoes on, the smooth cement path sent me through a tunnel of autumn trees and I was thinking. Thinking about the recent deaths around me, no one I was really close with but the sheer number of those who had passed threw me into a contemplative mood.

Then I thought about the trees lining my right and my left and I smiled as the sun danced on the multi-colored leaves and the wind whipped them to and fro. Suddenly, my two thoughts merged—was it the music? My mood? I don’t know but I looked at the tree directly ahead of me and I saw life, colorful leaves and strong roots… then I saw death, leaves snatched by the wind and swaying to the ground. These leaves became human lives and this gave me a whole new perspective of my outdoor venture. My eyes captured one, lone, brown leaf making its way down to its death, and it made me sad. I thought… somewhere, someone is dying, their life, like a weathered and worn leaf has left its peak, green stage and has ended. How sad the other leaves must be, those who had been a part of his branch, they watch him fall and can do nothing to stop the inevitable. But they moved on, living, swaying—even if lonely.

My horizon expanded and I saw from my periphery all the hundreds of leaves falling; it was overwhelming. Each one of them representing a life in my eyes, some were torn away before their due time because of a gust of wind and some falling—seemingly on their own free will. My heart was very heavy, witnessing all the deaths around me, knowing that this is happening around the world. Some trees I realized were so bare, war torn and empty—I thought for a brief moment about the countries in which many lives are lost, in such a mass quantity. Why, when there was such a full tree to its immediate right? And what is the significance of a single leaf, if it can be taken in a moment to join the pile of the dead?

A gust from behind quickened my steps forward for a moment and I realized something. I am a leaf. Never was I more aware of the unpredictability and power of the Wind, nor the frailness of my own body. I felt that at any moment I might be swept away. Suddenly every breath was precious to me, the fact that my feet were moving was a gift, my sight a blessing and the autumn smell seemed so rich. Life is worth living, worth enjoying, not because this is our destiny… to wave in the wind as a frail leaf, it is worth living because we were not created to be leaves at all. We live in a tent now, but soon, maybe sooner than we hope, you could be offered a home.