I hit a transition point in my life around my freshmen year of college. Every year at Christmas I looked forward to my parents giving me gifts. I went through various phases with what I️ asked for:
When I was young, I wanted the toys – LEGOs, robots, something that made loud noises.
In middle school I started to ask for electronics.
In high school I only wanted two things – trendy clothing or money. Simple, straightforward, but rarely did I only get cool clothing and money.
Regardless of the phase, there were two mainstays – two things I could always expect – socks and underwear.
These were things I could expect, because mom and dad had to buy them for me, anyway. Not only could they buy me something I needed, they didn’t have to buy an extra present. It didn’t matter the year, age, or what was on my list – I was going to get socks and underwear.
So this was the transition around my freshmen year… I was happy about it. I needed the socks and the underwear. I will never forget being 19 and opening up those fresh, white, socks that were in good condition. I was joyful. It was a huge blessing. I had no socks. I was wearing just shoes to my classes, and my feet were stinking (and freezing) and my other socks looked like a crazy kindergarten art project.
And it reminded me of how blessed I was that my mom still bought me socks. And then it reminded me of Christmas seasons I hadn’t been so grateful.
I️ grew up in a pretty affluent area and had “rich kids” as my friends. I wasn’t rich, and while we weren’t living in a box I know my parents often struggled just to pay bills on time or make ends meet. In hindsight, I realize how early they must have started to save money to give us a good Christmas. I understand after the fact the sacrifices they made for their young children to get the toys they asked for, the clothes they needed, and food to eat on Christmas day.
Of course, at the time I didn’t see that. All I saw was the jacket I wore to school the week before Christmas from Goodwill, and the brand new sports team Starter jackets all the other kids had. Instead of seeing the effort my parents put into the few gifts we got, I saw the abundance of gifts (and price tag of gifts) my friends would receive on Christmas.
And I was young, and yes it bothered me, but I usually let it go. Until one year.
I️ really wanted an N64. I knew all my friends were getting one and it was the hottest new game system. It also had a price tag of about $150, which was way more than all of my gifts combined generally were. But I wanted one so bad. I put it on my list. And waited.
Christmas came and I got to my last present. It was in a box shaped like an N64 box…
it was big enough…
I️ tore through the wrapping paper…
and found a board game.
It was an electronic board game, but I knew it only cost like 25 bucks. And this was my “big gift.”
I should have been grateful. I should have been very happy, because some people don’t even have $25 to buy food for their family on Christmas, some kids don’t get presents, some people don’t even have homes or parents or warm blankets or a bed. Some people were going to die of starvation that night alone and cold – but come on, I was only 11 years old.
So I threw the box down and ran to my room.
Now, my parents were awesome parents. And they knew when you had an 11 year old boy who was angry and in his room you gave him time to cool off. So, about ten minutes later (consisting mostly of me crying into my pillow, wondering why my parents sucked), both Mom and Dad came in.
They asked me what was wrong – and I told them.
I️ just wanted an N64. And I didn’t get it. And everyone else was getting one, and probably some games, and an extra controller, and maybe even a cool gamer chair to sit on and play video games. It was all I wanted.
I️ don’t remember much of that conversation except that at one point I said I would be okay if they took everything back, returned it, and used the money to buy me just that N64. If I could just get that I would be happy. Hell, I didn’t even need a game just yet.
They never traded everything back, I calmed down and accepted my gifts, albeit grudgingly, but I did.
That single memory haunts me and breaks me to this day.
My parents loved me so much, made so many sacrifices for those gifts that year. I will never know what they were, what our financial situation was, or what they went without so I could have them. And in my anger I threw it all back in their faces.
I️ have no clue how much that must have broken their hearts.
I️ wonder how God feels.
There are so many days I wake up jealous. I am jealous of what others have and of the blessings in their lives. Maybe it is their car, or the way they look, or some of their gifts and talents or the money they make or their job. And then I compare it to myself and my life.
Well, I don’t have that car. Or that kind of money. I wish I looked like that person, or was able to be as talented as that person. If I just had those things, I would be happy.
In fact, I would trade in my life if I could have that.
Sounds a lot like Christmas.
God blesses us all so richly, in ways we see and in ways we don’t see. On top of that, we are all created unique and loved, and we all receive unique blessings in our lives. The blessings in our own life are often not duplicated or a blessing in the same way as they are to us. So often we miss it.
We throw it back in God’s face, instead of praising him for the love he has given us and shown us through those blessings, we ask why we can’t have more, have it different, have it better. We don’t even realize that behind the blessings it isn’t the blessing at all that matters, but the fact that we are blessed.
That God loves us enough to bless us, and to care for us, and to hold us up. That God loves us enough to put these things in to our lives, and yes they are different. And yes some people may seem to struggle more than others – sometimes its hard to see blessings at all. But if we start “counting our blessings” we are missing the point.
Because then we compare numbers. We wonder why our gifts don’t add up to someone else’s, or why they aren’t as good. And this is a dangerous way of thinking. On the one hand we say, “God must not love me as much as this person or that person because he hasn’t blessed me enough or in the same ways.” On the other hand we say, “I don’t have the gifts and talents to give God. My gifts to him would not matter, and are worthless.”
And both thoughts are so wrong, and the first often leads to the second. We make the mistake in thinking God can be as ungrateful as we are, yet its just the opposite. We all have different gifts to bring to the world, to others, and to God. Our God cherishes them all, because he sees our gifts for what they are – not the gift, but the love behind it. Its like the woman in the temple – she contributes a much smaller amount to the temple collection, but Jesus realizes its more than the two coins she puts in the box, it’s the love and devotion to God behind it.
And God loves it all – all the different gifts and talents, blessings and praises that we through back at Him it all matters. Its all important. God ultimately sees it for what we sometimes can’t – love. Even if is just a pair of socks.