According to Gary Champan’s book, The Five Love Languages, one of my love languages is “receiving gifts.” To the average onlooker, this could be misconstrued as materialism. Just as with any of the love languages that are not your own, they are often misunderstood. But he describes “Receiving Gifts” like this….
Don’t mistake this love language for materialism; the receiver of gifts thrives on the love, thoughtfulness, and effort behind the gift. If you speak this language, the perfect gift or gesture shows that you are known, you are cared for, and you are prized above whatever was sacrificed to bring the gift to you.
Though I love to get gifts, I have a very difficult time receiving them. I embody ambivalence and contradiction, because I fear what I long for. And too often, gifts can be very deceptive and grossly conditional. For a long time, I did not know that they came in any other packaging.
For Christmas, my friend and her husband gave my family an amazingly generous gift. She came over a few days before the holiday commenced and handed me a folded piece of paper. “Merry Christmas,” she said casually.
I opened it, and written in a very familiar, ‘lightening’ font, was my gift. It was 3 nights with them on their family vacation in Orlando, so that we could all go to Harry Potter Wizarding World together. I was undone. And so very excited.
Our plan was to drive down this past Monday. We were going to spend one day at the park and the other swimming at the resort. Driving over 18 hours in four days to see a ‘fictional’ place and a swim in a heated pool….I was not above it.
But on Sunday afternoon, less than a day before our departure, I received a call from my “Fairy Godmother.” She asked if I would want to go Disney’s Magic Kingdom on Wednesday if I had free tickets.
Well, I LOVE Magic Kingdom and believe that my address in Heaven will be Main Street. Because this was our reception on Wednesday morning upon our arrival.
Everyone is always so happy to see you.
For two days my head and heart were swimming with rapture. But, there was something else as well. Underneath the joy and elation was an unsettling discomfort, because I knew that I would never be able to repay such a gift. Not that anyone was asking me to.
As we walked around the parks in delightful anticipation, as we enjoyed the beauty of a “Magic Kingdom,” I felt the temptation to “bail” emotionally because it was all too much.
From the invitation to see the place I had believed in ever since reading about it in fiction. To the free tickets to Disney World for me and my girls, who had not been since they were very young. To the loving kindness of my husband who sent us with his blessing but not himself due to his many conflicts. I was overwhelmed with the value of what I had unwrapped, which ensued an internal war.
My old self tried diligently to separate from the experience due to my inability to EVER reciprocate, because I have spent a lifetime trying not to owe anyone anything. But, then there was a smaller word longing to be heard over the clamor. It was whispering, “receive, Carrie. Receive this gift from these people who love you.”
It has taken years for my wobbly legs to securely stand on the uncertain ground of friendship. To trust the process of living life together in community with all of its glorious messiness. But, in doing so, I have received an even greater gift. The ability to know moments of trust and rest with people. To know freedom from performing and trying to ‘earn’ my way into their lives.
It didn’t take long for me to see, that the only thing they wanted in return was my enjoyment. It wasn’t a demand. They just really enjoyed me, enjoying their gift. (Cause I was kind of a freak in my excitement and sort of our own wandering entertainment.)
Ironically in the end, the thing that gave me the most fear, which was my inability to repay everyone, turned into the very thing that fueled my gratitude. There was a depth of acceptance that I had yet to ever experience as I stood at the intersection of neediness and grace. And it was wonder’full.
As silly as it sounds, spending time at a couple of theme parks gave me a deeper understanding of the gospel.
Because after all, what is the gospel, if not a gift that can never be repayed. A gift that the Father longs for me to fully receive and enjoy.
*Taken from Tim Keller’s book, Prodigal God
“The Father runs to his son, and showing his emotions openly, falls upon him and kisses him. This would almost surely have taken the younger brother by surprise. Flummoxed, he tries to roll out his business plan for the restitution. The Father interrupts him, not only ignoring his rehearsed speech, but directly contradicting it. “Quick!” he says to his servants. “bring the best robe and put it on him!”
What is he saying?
The best robe in the house would have been the father’s own robe, the unmistakable sign of restored standing in the family. The father is saying, “I’m not going to wait until you’ve paid off your debt; I’m not going to wait until you’ve duly groveled. You are not going to earn your way back into the family, I am going to simply take you back. I will cover your nakedness, poverty, and rags with robes of my office and honor.”
Taken from Luke 15, The Parable of the Lost Son or Daughter