During my five years in the Cru music ministry, it was always a special treat to visit the home areas of someone in the ministry, and one time we happened to be playing for the Sunday morning service of the music ministry assistant director’s home church in Ohio. And, it just happened that Fred and his family were in town that same weekend. And, it also just happened to be his four-year-old daughter Ashley’s birthday that Sunday.
Admittedly, there might have been a slight “kiss-up” motive in doing this, but we decided to present Ashley with a birthday gift – a cute little kids’ china teapot with matching tea cups. So right before the service, we told Fred we had a gift for Ashley. Fred located her in the elementary kids’ play area where she was fully engaged in cooking a pretend meal – so engaged, in fact, that she didn’t want to stop, even after being asked repeatedly to do so.
“Ashley, can you come here?” Fred asked.
“Ashley, please stop playing and come see Daddy.”
“Ashley, look at me. Come here now.”
This time, she looked up and said, “I don’t want to.”
The scene escalated to the point of anger on Fred’s part, tears on Ashley’s, and embarrassment on ours to have to witness this scene. She finally settled down to the point where we could present our gift to her, but the joy of the moment had clearly vanished for all of us.
Later that morning, out drummer Stuart connected the dots and wondered out loud how many times we react to God’s gifts the way Ashley did to ours. Here we were, offering her a free gift of something we had picked out especially for her, something we thought she would particularly enjoy. But she was so wrapped up in playing with borrowed toys that she wouldn’t stop long enough to receive a gift she would be able to keep forever if she liked.
In my last blogpost about praying expectantly to our loving God, I quoted Matthew 7:9-11. That passage is equally relevant here:
“Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? 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!”
In Ashley’s case, she wasn’t even asking for anything. We were the ones initiating the gift-giving. God gives me good gifts every single day: life, health, food, clothing, relationships, the chance to help others, etc. And then there are the times he blesses me with extra-special little reminders of his presence, things he’s orchestrated to bless me in a special way, tailored just for me.
But I have to be willing to lay down my “borrowed toys” long enough to accept the unique gifts he’s selected just for me.