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A Gift from Who?

My sister and her family live on the west coast. It’s way too far away but, try as I may, I just can’t convince her to move back to Minnesota or Iowa with our bitterly cold and snowy winters followed by our hot, humid, muggy, and buggy summers. She fell in love with the Olympic Peninsula when she went out there to work for summer in college and has no plans to leave any time soon. While it does provide a great place to visit and vacation on a regular basis, I do hate that my nieces are growing up so quickly and so much between visits. Staying connected with them is a challenge.

One of the ways to stay connected with them is to send out a box filled with fun stuff several times a year. Each of her three girls knew, by the age of two, that a package from auntie Sara would likely mean a new game or toy, some new clothes, and chocolate were all about to enter their world.

At some point in 2020, I sent a box of stuff rather random to my sister. Due to COVID, they were all home from school and day care while my sister was also trying to work from home. At the very least, I figured the box would provide the girls with some entertainment and distraction for an hour or two allowing my sister to have some time to herself. I don’t remember much about what was in the box except for the suckers that I included. Why? Funny you should ask.

I had not talked with my sister for a couple of weeks after sending the box. Life was crazy on both ends as COVID made life and work more challenging than usual. So when I finally got in touch with her, I asked her if she had yet received the package. “What package?” “I sent it a couple of weeks ago. Let’s see, it had this and that and….oh, it had some suckers in it instead of chocolate.”

Apparently the suckers caused a bit of drama. At the mention of the suckers, my sister stopped me exclaiming that, oh yes, they had gotten THAT package! Turns out, my nieces were still young enough that suckers were the gift that keeps on giving….and giving….and giving. Sticky spots and half eaten suckers were still being located throughout the house. While the kids LOVED them, my sister was not a fan.

Gifts are interesting when you stop and think about it for a moment. What one person loves, another person is disinterested in and yet another person would hate. Sometimes we can get so focused on wanting one specific gift that we fail to see or appreciate the many other wonderful gifts we are being given. It is easy to focus on how much joy and happiness the gift brings us personally and forget about the thought and sacrifice that went into giving the gift. We might love getting a gift but complain about the responsibility which comes with receiving. And how often, especially when it comes to kids and toys, have you seen someone receive a gift they have been begging and pleading for only to it to wind up sitting in a corner, unused and forgotten, within a few weeks?

Our relationship to spiritual gifts is often all too similar. I have known since I was a teenager that I am good at organizing data and schedules but it has taken me a long time to see value in that gifting. I haven’t heard a single person yet pray to be blessed with the spiritual gift of administration. I have heard lots of people ask God to send them someone with an administrative gift to help them, but they never seem to pray for that gift themselves. I can sing. I can carry a tune that isn’t horribly offensive to most people most of the time. But my dreams of being a famous musician will remain just that, dreams. But what I can do is get up in front a crowd of people and speak without getting nervous or experiencing stage fright. I honestly don’t understand why that is such a big deal for so many people.

It is tempting, oh so very tempting, to look at another person’s gifts and talents and wish they were our own. It is easy to write off the things that come naturally to us as no big deal because, for us, they aren’t a big deal. So often, if something is easy for us, we assume it is easy for most people. It is surprising when we begin to really fully realize that not everyone’s brain works in the same way. Not everyone can stand in front of crowd and speak, not everyone wears their emotions on their sleeve, not everyone is comfortable planning ahead for an event without every single detail researched and nailed down.

I remember once being asked what my dream job would be. At the time, and still today, I think it would be amazing to be the person in charge of the logistics at a large national conference (at least 10,000 people in attendance). How should the display hall be set up to maximize traffic flow? Which break out rooms need more space than others based on pre-registrations? When should be move something in the hallways so that we are going with the flow of traffic, or avoiding traffic all together? How should the stage be set up to offer the most people the best view? As I continued on with my dreaming and pondering, a look of disbelief came across the face of the one who asked me the question. His response? “That sounds like my worst nightmare.” We are wired differently. Said another way, we have different gifting and talents.

Over the next weeks we are going to be exploring spiritual gifts. What are they? How can I know mine? Why do we have them? How do we use them? Can I get that one instead of this one? Am I supposed to have all of them? What’s the difference between a gift, a developed skill, and natural talent? Can I lose a spiritual gift? When you start digging into the gifts of the Holy Spirit, lots of questions arise. I won’t promise to answer them all in the coming weeks but they hope and prayer is that you will be better equipped to embrace the wonder that comes with discovering and using the gifts you have been given.

Follow Up:

- What things are you naturally good at? What things seem to come easy for you?

- What things do you wish you were good at?

- How do you use the things you know you are good at to serve God and build up your local church community?

- If you happen to be a fan of The Big Bang Theory on TV, I hope you'll enjoy this clip from season 2. Earlier in the episode, we are introduced to Sheldon's unique view on gift giving not as a kind gesture but an uncomfortable and stressful social obligation. I love how Sheldon goes from hating the idea of exchanging gifts to giving Penny the greatest gift he could possibly give her.

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