I woke up late this Christmas morning, staggered to our couch with a protein shake breakfast, looked at my husband across the room and began to weep. I was completely overwhelmed. I was not crying tears of hardship or frustration, I was crying tears of joy. Complete unfiltered joy.
This year has been a very difficult one for a number of reasons. My family almost died in a horrible car crash while driving out to visit us and my parents were badly injured. My heart health continued to bring its own challenges and I had more bad days than good. Our city, country, and world saw incredible struggles and strife.
But instead of being overwhelmed by anger or sorrow, I feel joy.
“Why?” I wondered out loud. “How can I feel so full at the end of such a draining year?”
Because we have received good gifts every step of the way.
9 “Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? 11 If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!12 So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets. (Matthew 7:9-12, NIV)
This passage of Scripture befuddled me for much of my college career. Whenever we studied Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount, found in Matthew chapters 5 through 7, I always found these verses kind of…random. Parents giving their children rocks and snakes? That sounds like stuff I would have loved when I was little! What kids are asking for bread and fish? (During this time I also learned importance of not trying to interpret every passage into today’s culture.) It took me years to understand the significance of this text and the truth that it contains: God gives Good Gifts. When God’s children ask for good things, God does not respond with a curse. Even when God does not respond how we hoped, God is not trying to trick us or punish us. God is love.
I need to pay attention to what I am giving God credit for; sometimes I point at trash and attribute it to the greatest Gift-giver of all! When horrible things happen it is not God responding to my requests with venom. Ugly things are the result of evil at work. My heart condition is not a “blessing in disguise” but an attack against the goodness of God. Car accidents and political fights and racism is not, and should never be, connected to our Good God. God responds to us in love and gives us (as undeserving as we are) Good Gifts.
Many times this year I have reached out to God for help. I asked for bread and fish, for our daily needs. I asked for comfort and peace. I asked for familiarity and support. And God responded with Good Gifts:
- A HOME. Ben and I purchased a beautiful house with the help of our supportive family and a great realtor. (Thanks, Tyler!)
- ASSISTANCE. People gave rides, meals, and lots of time and patience on days I needed physical help. My IANA Team has been an incredible blessing.
- THERAPY. We set aside money in our budget for monthly counseling sessions. Talking with a professional about my mental and physical health has been a gift.
- SEMINARY. One of the most unexpected answers to my pleas for help was in the form of a learning community. It has been a great start to a three-year journey of reading, writing, and sharing.
- PRESENTS. Some of the good gifts I unwrapped this year were literal presents: Candy from our neighbors, flowers from our church family, even a Gilmore Girls themed package from a dear friend.
- HEALING. My parents and my brother are alive and recovering from their injuries. Their lives are the most important gift I can celebrate this year.
- LOVE. In and through all this year has brought, Ben and I have received love. An overwhelming amount of love from people in our community, people we barely know, and a God who knows and loves us all.
I have been given Good Gifts this year so I thank God with praise and wonder and weeping. And I thank all of you, too.
May you be overwhelmed by Good Gifts in this new year.