I can still see the look of hurt and disappointment on my mom’s face after I opened my “big” Christmas gift. “What IS it?” was not the reaction she was expecting. At the same time, I remember my own disappointment, because it wasn’t what I asked for, and wasn’t anything I needed.
See, that year, what I’d asked for had been pretty boring and simple. Gifts that, honestly, weren’t that fun to give, and Mom worried wouldn’t seem that special. So Mom went maverick.
Flash forward 25 years, and the exact thing repeated itself, only this time with me on the other end. My son asked for a few friends to sleep over for his birthday, so I geared myself up for an elaborate event, complete with games, prizes, decorations, and crafts. Of course, these efforts resulted in a pretty hectic day and short temper by me, and to make it even worse, I realized halfway through the party that my son didn’t appreciate any of it!
When I pulled him aside for the obligatory lecture on gratitude, he stopped me short by saying, “But Mom…I didn’t ASK for ANY of this! I just wanted my friends to come sleep over!!”
As we gear up for this holiday season, how many of us may be spending time and energy on things that are not being asked for?
The loads and loads of gifts under the tree? The elaborate stocking for Him filled with hard-to-find Man Things (while ours is thinly filled with whatever was handy in the checkout aisle)? The beautiful clothes and toys given to hungry children? Are these really the things being called for by those receiving them?
So, how do we know?
Before doing anything, ask what is needed, or valued by the recipient. We need to sit down with our families and ask them “What are your favorite things about the holidays?” If our hand-made bows around the yard don’t appear on that list, it’s time to reevaluate. What’s more, we will probably find that in our effort to make everything *special* we could be neglecting the simple things that hold more meaning to our loved ones than anything else.
The same goes for our charitable works and donations. Many of us are so eager to help out during the holidays, so volunteer our services by calling up a charity and saying, “I’d like to help with XYZ….” Problem is, they may not need our help that way. Maybe they need us in a few months, or not at all. Maybe they need money instead of toys. Just ask.
Matthew 7:7-12 says, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks the door will be opened. Is there anyone among you who, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you then, although 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!”
Even God waits to be asked, and gives in accordance!
But wait…there’s something missing from this equation. What if we, or our children, ask for something stupid?
God has an answer for that too. He gives us instead something we NEED.
We can take these two principles to heart this Christmas, and give nothing less, and nothing more. Instead of giving a bunch of things we THINK our loved ones, or those in need, will like, we can give them what they ask for, then only add what they need.
My son wants a football; he needs an alarm clock. I’m going to give him both. I am not going to give him the $150 Lego set I think looks cool but he’s never mentioned. My husband wants a specific book for which he’s left the ISBN number on my desk (boring!), but hasn’t realized he needs a new jacket. I’m going to give him both, but not the Delux Grille Set from Lowe’s I think he’d enjoy but he hasn’t noticed every time he’s in there.
And God’s gifts are the same- He knows what we want, and also what we need but don’t realize. Everything He asks us to do is for our benefit, even His own son’s birthday! And we can be assured that we will get everything we need, plus everything that will authentically and sustainably make us happy, and able to pass on that abundance and joy to others:
“And God is able to make all grace overflow to you so that because you have enough of everything in every way at all times, you will overflow in every good work.” (2 Corinthians 9:8)