Early Gifts

My kids have been begging me for TWO WEEKS to open one of their Christmas presents early, from the second I put them under the tree. My answer has been a resounding “No way. Not gonna happen. Quit asking.”

Remembering back to this exact occurrence in my life with my own mom, I now realize how unbearably obnoxious I was every time I asked, and yet, no matter the threats of, “I’ll give them away if you don’t stop asking,” or, “Ask one more time and you’ll never get to open them,” I still persisted. As did my younger brother.

My two little girls are no different, although, they have changed their plea of, “Mom, can we PLEASE open a present early?” to a more hinting/whining version of, “Gosh, mom, I sure wish we could open a present early . . .” with just a lilt of question at the end.

So today, two days before our official family christmas on Saturday (because we are opening gifts early at my house this year due to travel schedules) I get up and tell them, “Here’s the deal girls, I need some help cleaning the house to get ready for our Christmas. If, and ONLY IF, you help me clean the kitchen and living room, pick up all your toys from downstairs and put them away in your bedroom, and get your laundry sorted and put away, I will CONSIDER letting you open one of your gifts early this afternoon. But that’s dependent on whether you do it with a glad heart and a happy attitude. What do you think?”

You know what I got? Blank stares. I thought they’d be jumping for joy, so excited that all they had to do was a few little helpful tasks and then they could open one of the long-awaited gifts they’ve been anticipating for weeks now. Nope. Instead, they started to whine. “Why do we have to clean before we can have a present? Can we open the present and THEN clean? I think I’d rather just wait instead of doing all that stuff.”

Whoa. The thing is, what they didn’t grasp, was that whether they waited to open the present or got to open it today, they were going to have to help with the chores. Once that was explained, they got to work. I was contemplating this interesting behavior when the Lord whispered in my ear, “How do you think I feel?”

Tears sprung to my eyes and I audibly gasped. In that moment I realized how often we act like this toward the Lord. He says, “I have this incredible gift for you–and I want to give it to you as soon as possible, the only thing is, I really need to you take care of these few items first.” And instead of getting excited and getting to work on the “chores” he’s assigned us, we start to whine and tell Him we’d just rather wait. What we fail to grasp, just like my children, is that no matter what, before we can receive some of His most precious gifts for us, there is work that has to be done in our hearts, minds, spirits, and lives.

The Lord often says, “I want to give you peace, but first you have to learn to trust me, clean out the cobwebs of despair, and spend some time in my word today. Oh, and I am going to need you to forgive that person that hurt your pride twenty years ago that you just keep hanging on to. It’s time.”

And we’re like, “Nah. I’m good. I’d rather just wait for it to happen on it’s own. That sounds like too much work and effort and I’m not in the mood today. Can’t I just have the gift and THEN work on those things?”

Or He says, “I want to bless you with the weight loss you’ve always desired and the healthy life you’ve always wanted to live, but to get there you’re going to have to do some exercising, clean up your nutrition, and get your mind and spirit aligned with being a healthy, disciplined person. I’ll help you every step of the way, and the sooner you get going, the sooner you’ll get to open your present. Ready?”

“Yes! I’m ready . . .” you shout, as you jump up off the couch pumping your fist in the air. Then immediately follow it by sitting back down because all of that is a daunting thought, and say, “Just let me finish eating this pizza and watching this Netflix special first though–cool?”

You see, God won’t force you into doing the work like this momma forced her kids into it. But you also can’t receive what he has waiting for you as quickly as He’d like to give it to you if you don’t put in the effort. That doesn’t mean you’ll never open that gift, but why oh why do we delay the incredible rewards and blessings God holds for our lives by putting off the work it takes to get them as quickly as possible???

Mostly likely, we, like my kids, have been begging the Lord, “Can I please just have this one thing early? Please, please, please, please, please?!?” And when He responds with a “yes, but,” answer, we quickly decide it’s probably not worth the effort, and most likely He’s going to give it to us eventually anyways, so . . .

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to live my life that way anymore. Maybe you realized in reading my scenarios above that they are very personal ones drawn up from my own well of experience. I’m tired of putting of the work and never receiving the gift early. I don’t want it eventually, I want it the soonest God will allow me to unwrap it!

I truly believe God’s perfect timing is quickened when we do what He asks of us without hesitation, without contention, with a happy heart, and with a good attitude. We can do it grudgingly and with grumbling, but we’re probably missing the point in that case, and putting it off longer, because then we have another, new lesson to learn in obedience.

Some of you may be thinking, “but God doesn’t place requirements on His gifts to us, does He?”  That’s a question that only you and God can answer for your life. I know in my own life experience and relationship with God there have been many times I’ve asked for something in prayer and been given a reply of “if you do this, I can then do that” type of situation from the Lord. The gift itself was always free, there was no price tag attached, and I didn’t have to “earn” it per say, but sometimes there have been requirements I needed to fulfill to be able and ready to receive it.

In my own life, financial stability is a great example. I always had it, but I never FELT it. When I wasn’t taking care of my budget, when I was spending without thinking, when I wasn’t giving the way the Lord wanted me to and I was failing to steward what He gave me properly, my life never felt financially stable. I would cry out over and over to Him, begging for more money so I could feel financially stable; He’d tell me to tighten my budget and be more fiscally responsible, give up some things I didn’t really need, and live in expectation of provision instead of the constant anxiety of not having enough. I’d rebel. I’d continue financially unstable and my faith continued to falter instead of growing. One year I finally threw up my hands and said, “Okay, FINE! Let’s do it your way God. I’ll get disciplined and I’ll stop worrying all the time.” Guess what? Every year since then my feeling of financial stability has improved, as well as my finances overall. I’m not saying I received millions all of the sudden and never have to think about it again, but what I did find was peace in knowing the Lord provides, discipline in my spending habits, and pride in my stewardship to the best of my ability as the Lord directs my hands. I have to admit, I still question if I’m doing it right some days, but now I can rest assured I’m doing everything the Lord has directed and required and instructed me to do, and the rest is in His hands! I can’t mess up His plan when I’m living in obedience to the best of my ability.

God can’t trust us with much until we’ve proven we can be trusted with little, right? Sometimes it takes huge personal growth to make small, steady steps forward. Let us not forget, even our most precious gift of salvation required that we first admit we were sinners, ask forgiveness of our sins, and accept Christ’s sacrifice, believing in His resurrection, for us to attain it. It was still free, and we didn’t earn it through works of our own, but we still had to complete some internal steps in our heart and spirit to open up to the giving and receiving of that gift of salvation.

Dear friend, the Lord wants to give you GOOD gifts. He wants to meet ALL your needs!!!

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And I don’t just mean the kind that can be wrapped in shiny paper and put under you tree. I mean gifts like love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control; but attaining them won’t always be effortless. He wants to give you gifts like feeling secure in who you are in Him and having self-confidence in being who He created you to be. Feeling content no matter your circumstances. Feeling hopeful even in the darkest of times. Feeling comforted when all seems lost, and knowing with absolute certainty He provides for all your needs, even when you can’t fathom how provision is going to come. Some of these things take a lot of disciplined practice to strengthen the muscles needed to obtain them. But oh, isn’t it worth it?!?

My prayer for you today is that if you know the Lord wants to give a good and perfect gift, you not only be ready to receive it, but willing to do whatever it takes to get it as soon as possible! I wish each and every one of you a very Merry Christmas and the most amazing of New Years in 2019. I can’t wait to continue this journey with you next year!!!

Oh, and my kids helped clean the kitchen, the living room is spotless, I’m working on clearing my desk (and typing this blog because the inspiration hit me like being doused in a bucket of warm water), and one of them just yelled down the stairs from the landing, “We’ve already got two baskets of laundry sorted before you got here to help us Mom!” I guess they’ll be getting to open that present early today after all!

What present have you been putting off opening early because you don’t want to do what the Lord is asking you to do in order to be ready to receive the gift He has for you?

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